The Multitasking Myth
Posted by bonnieallen12
In Mary Chayko’s book, Superconnected, she explores the widely debated topic of multitasking. In today’s digital age, people are responding to text messages, scrolling through their feed, taking phone calls, and posting on social media while taking on other activities or tasks. Chayko explains that the term multitasking is misleading; that while the term implies individuals are performing tasks simultaneously, they typically switch between tasks instead, breaking the “flow.”
According to a University of California Irvine Study, there is a theory that it takes approximately 23 minutes and 15 seconds to focus again after breaking concentration. This is a concerning statistic given how frequently people check their phones. That is, if you check your phone only three times a day, that is over an hour of work lost. When comparing this to my personal life, I thought about multitasking at the workplace. I listen to Pandora stations and podcasts throughout the day and often reach for the phone to change stations and skip music. Perhaps I would be better off sticking to one channel or avoid such distractions entirely.
It seems that even having a phone in proximity can be troublesome. If an individual avoids responding to texts and phone calls at work, but sees their notification screen light up, they are in a constant state of anticipation. Though the physical act of checking the phone is eliminated, the proximity of the phone still has the power to break concentration. Chayko states, “In general, people who attempt to multitask regularly and chronically suffer cognitive and behavioral deficits. They have difficulty recalling information and are slower at processing information.” While the brain absorbs and processes all the new information, I could see how it would be more difficult to retain information and perform the task at hand. While it is important to take breaks every now and then, the amount of time lost from phone use can add up significantly, even if it’s just checking notifications.
As we continue to move forward into the techno-social word, we will evolve and adapt with the opportunities for instant connection. Chayko quotes Ulla Foehr who states, “In this media-heavy world, it is likely that brains that are more adept at media multitasking will be passed along and these changes will be naturally selected.” As we evolve with technology, it will be interesting to see what is produced over the next few years and what will become of the human-machine relationship.
Chayko, M. (2018). Superconnected: The Internet, digital media, and techno-social life. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
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