The Memory Illusion

For as long as I can remember I have loved to read, so much so that my childhood basically revolved around trips to the library and my local bookstore.

Once I had reached to University, reading for fun was non-existent. Long gone were the days where I would curl up next to the heater with a hot chocolate in one hand, and my favourite novel in the other. Instead, this was replaced by a structured reading list featuring massive hardbacks about epistemology, Corporate governance and operations & quality management.

However, with my graduation ceremony taking place last year, marking the end of my University journey, I no longer had any excuses. I am only on book 3/10 for the year. Although I have a long way to go I am pleased with my progress so far. I have even started a Bookstagram (an Instagram for books). Sounds weird I know but it’s actually pretty cool.

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The Memory Illusion

The memory illusion by Dr Julia Shaw showcases various facts and examples on why we cannot trust our memories, and how we are tricked into believing events have taken place, when in fact no such thing has occurred. Most of the memories we have are not even ours. They are simply conjured up and based upon the memories of others, evidently going on to create somewhat of a pseudo-timeline.

This book started off quite slow and took a lot of effort for me to keep on reading, hence the reason why it took me around three weeks to finish it. However one example really caught my attention, this was to do with false confessions or what some like to call coerced confessions.

Dr Shaw touches on the judicial system, and how interrogations when conducted in a particular fashion, can manipulate the innocent into believing they are guilty; eventually going so far as describing how they carried out the supposed crime. This is what many believed happened to Brendan Dassey from Netflix’s true-crime documentary: Making a murderer. Brendan’s age and lack of education were two of the apparent reasons that made him susceptible to this type of memory illusion. Research has shown that those aged eighteen and under are four times more likely than adults, to confess to a crime they didn’t commit.

Another thing I have learnt is that multitasking doesn’t exist…Yup, you heard me right there is NO such thing as multitasking. Our brains just do not have the capacity to focus on more than one thing at any one time. Instead, we do a thing called task switching. This means that instead of completing two or more things simultaneously, our brain switches off completely from that task the moment we introduce another.

Although reading this seemed like a chore at times, I did enjoy some chapters of this book and managed to learn a little about myself in the process. If you would like to learn more about memories and their illusions then you can purchase the book here.

The social media effect

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

A decade ago the answer would have been somewhere between, brushing your teeth and having a cup of coffee.

Skip to 2018 and it would come as no surprise that the answer would most likely be, scrolling through one of the various social media apps installed on our devices.

Yes I am guilty of this.

Every morning without fail at approximately 8:30am, I reach for my phone and begin to scroll through my Instagram feed, which is flooded with influencers and their seemingly perfect lives. 30 minutes fly by and I’m left in a destructive cycle of comparison and feelings of unworthiness. I am addicted to my toxic relationship with Instagram and I am not alone. In August 2017, Instagram reported 500 million daily users, which is only forecasted to grow further more.

This increased use of Social media over the past few years has warped our perception of reality. The lines distinguishing the boundaries between what is real and what is not, have become increasingly blurred due to the fact that we now have the ability to construct our identity and the way we are perceived within our virtual communities.

What we tend to forget is that social media users only post what they want their followers to see, in the process constructing somewhat of the ‘perfect life’. We aren’t present for their bad days, so to us they simply do not exist. This evidently leads to feelings of guilt, embarrassment and incompetence, as our life isn’t as flawless as the ones we see fabricated for social media. We are constantly comparing our real everyday lives to a purposefully constructed digital version, which can evidently have a detrimental effect on our mental health.

We are all human and have existed well before social media was ever a thing. Bad days are nothing to be ashamed of, everyone has them regardless of whether they are documented or not. I don’t have all the answers but we need to start living and embracing each element of our lives no matter how flawed or imperfect they may seem.