Digital Amnesia Revisited

Digital Amnesia is becoming more common among people across the U.S. and Canada. Interestingly, this is seen in the ability to remember phone numbers, especially of those belonging to partners, siblings and friends.

You’re cruising on the freeway, jamming to your favorite radio station. Your car starts to slow down, but your foot is still on the gas pedal. You quickly glance over to your dashboard, and notice the fuel indicator light is on.

“Ah, I was supposed to stop at the gas station…”

Instinctively, you reach over to phone your best friend who happens to live nearby.

“Just my luck. No battery!”

You step out of the car to look for any establishments. There’s nothing in sight but a straight road ahead and behind you.

“I’ll just have to flag someone down for help.”

A couple of cars speed by without slowing down. After a few minutes, a minivan finally pulls over. Breathing a sigh of relief, you greet the lady as she steps out and approaches you.

“Hey there, you alright? How can I help?”

“Hi, thanks for pulling over. Yes, I’m fine. My car ran out of gas and my phone is out of battery. Just my luck huh?”

“Here,” she unlocks her smartphone and hands it over to you. “You can use my phone to call whoever you need.”

You flash her a thankful smile, knowing your troubles will soon be over. You just have to give your best friend a call and this will all be over in no time– suddenly, it dawns on you.

“Oh crap… I don’t remember my best friend’s phone number. I could call AAA but I don’t know my membership number… I’d have to login to my account and look it up, but I don’t remember my password.”

In May 2015, we conducted research on how the use of internet and internet-enabled devices were transformed people’s everyday lives and relationships. The research found that due to our increased reliance on technology, people were unable to remember simple and important information. We call this phenomenon Digital Amnesia: the experience of forgetting information that you trust a digital device to store and remember for you.

We thought it would be interesting to conduct this same research once again to see how the results may have changed. In December 2018, Opinion Matters surveyed over 2,500 consumers in the United States and Canada.

Here’s what they found:

  • In 2019, 60% of participants can recall their significant others’ phone number, a 10% decrease compared to results in 2015 (70%)
  • People are still just as likely to depend on their phones to call friends. In 2015, 51% said they could not recall friend’s numbers and in 2019, 49% said the same
  • In 2019, 76% of respondents agreed that they are very reliant on technology in their personal life
  • However, only 52% of consumers protect their mobile device with a password and 24% said they use a security solution on their devices

Without looking it up, can you recall the current phone number of your parents, friends, or place of work?

It is evident that we are becoming more dependent on technology. As a result, the rate of Digital Amnesia will continue to increase over time. Despite these facts, fewer people are taking safety precautions to protect their digital devices.

Use this checklist we’ve created as a basic guide to help you practice better cybersecurity hygiene. Be sure to share it on your Instagram story to encourage your friends and family to secure their digital profiles!

Download the full Digital Amnesia report