Just as we once started using a calculator for math, a calendar to remember events, and GPS for directions, we now use the Internet for answers to just about everything. Using physical action to change the information processing requirements of a task in order to reduce cognitive demand, called “cognitive offloading,” is nothing new. But the availability and use of the Internet has significantly impacted our experience of it.
While using technology to improve upon a fact-based answer or find your way to a new location can make perfect sense, researchers have found that the more we use technology, the more we rely on it—even when we don’t really need it.
Furthermore, such reliance can come at a cost. If we rely on technology for help, important skills may decay or even never develop in the first place, or our memory of certain facts may become impaired, which can pose a problem if the technology isn’t available next time. So give some thought to when technology improves your experiences and when it doesn’t, and train yourself to use your brain more often.