Everyone is multi-tasking these days. They are tethered to their “Crackberries,” iPhones, iPads, smart phones and computers, so they are sending eMails at all hours. Even when they are supposed to be “at leisure,” they are mailing and texting during meals at restaurants, movies, baseball games, family outings, while driving, during classroom lectures, in the bathroom (both public and private), and in some cases, even during sex.
Years ago, there was a promise that technology would make us more productive. There are some ways in which it has made us more productive — I can edit this article without having to type it over from scratch, as I would have done before word processing programs existed. I can sell my domain names to people halfway around the world by using the internet, eMail and PayPal.
But there is a dark side — technology has enabled “spammers” to fill our in boxes with masses of junk. In some cases, the junk mail is so overwhelming that it causes people to lose their important messages among the spam.
Technology promised to give us more leisure time, as well. Presumably, the more leisure time was a result of having gotten all of our work done earlier than before. However — studies have shown that people (who are fortunate enough to have a job these days) are working more hours than ever. Obviously, in the workplace, one must do the bidding and put out all the little “fires” that the employer commands. But it is well documented that people end up doing a lot of things poorly when required to multi-task all the time. The human brain is not structured for it.
Yesterday, I saw a woman walking through a traffic-filled parking lot into a store. She had a baby cradled in her right arm, a toddler by the hand with her left arm, and her neck was bent to hold the cell phone between her ear and shoulder so she could carry on a conversation. There is no way she was giving adequate attention to either child. She was not watching for traffic as she crossed. But she was deeply engaged in a phone call that pulled most of her attention elsewhere.
The sad thing is that most people are unaware that they are performing poorly on multiple tasks. They don’t have that insight because too much of their brain is occupied trying to multi-task. And it is becoming evident that all of these short bursts of technological communication are making many people attention deficient.
What is the answer to this dilemma? Continue reading