Media-Multitasking and ‘The Good Life’

Picture 4 02-12-30Be honest: how many other things are you doing right now?

Are you in the midst of responding to your e-mail, while casually browsing the web, scanning your friend’s most recent Facebook updates, chatting on Gchat, and mid-article on your favorite news site or blog?

Go ahead and count them: how many windows are open on your computer right now?

And what else are you doing? Are you listening to music, watching TV, or half-talking to a friend nearby? Is your cell phone within a hands reach, ready to be answered the instant you hear a text message or phone call? Or perhaps you’re even reading this on your cell phone, on your way in between classes or meetings, biding time while waiting for the next thing to require your attention?

No, this isn’t a post about Big Brother watching you; it’s about a term we all know too well: Multitasking. We have become, as writer Christine Rosen says, “mavens of multitasking,” glued to our technological gadgets, driven by our seemingly endless to-do lists of tasks. My post today asks, how have all the technologies we use – the cell phones, computers, PDAs, e-mails, and the like– accelerated the extent to which we multitask? And more importantly, what effect has it had on the way we live our lives?

A New Type Of Multitasking

The compulsion to multitask is driven by the desire to get more things done in less time, in a world that is moving at an increasingly fast pace. But gone are the days where “multitasking” meant simply reading the news while finishing your work assignment, or the common example “walking while chewing gum.” Modern technologies have ushered in a new type of multitasking–multitasking on steroids–where one cannot only do two things, but eleven things at once. Now, we live in an era where multitasking means reading the news, checking one’s e-mail, texting a friend, watching a youtube video, downloading music, and finishing a work assignment—all, if you please, while walking and chewing gum.

student_multitaskingAnd I would venture to say that the new form of multitasking is not necessarily associated with accomplishing more tasks in the strictest sense, but rather just being tuned into more things at once. For those dubbed “media-multitaskers”- the ones watching TV while surfing the web on their laptops and sending text messages on their cell phones– the sheer number of available things to keep up with conditions participation across a multitude of media. Up-to-the second news updates, a constant stream of Facebook and Twitter statuses, endless e-mails, and an overwhelming amount of content available to explore at every turn: it’s hard to keep up with all the information — and impossible, certainly, if one doesn’t try to do more than one thing at once.

Writer Linda Stone says we are addicted to checking and rechecking these media, “constantly scanning for opportunities and staying on top of contacts, events, and activities in an effort to miss nothing” with what she calls “continuous partial attention”. “Our pleasure cycles are increasingly tied to it,” writes Sam Anderson, in his article “In Defense of Distraction“. And it has become hard to “unplug”, to take vacations, or, in some cases, to even take a few hours and go off the grid (just think of all the updates you’ll miss). One man wrote in the Mercury News:

“At work, of course, I typically spend almost my entire day in front of my computer. I’m constantly checking my e-mail, responding to instant messages, surfing the Web or playing around with various software programs. (And) When I’m away from my desk, I’m still tied to technology. I have my iPhone with me at all times and use it to check my work e-mail, navigate to out-of-office meetings, listen to music and news — or play the occasional game. But even on vacation, I felt an urge to be engaged with something electronic.”

When we think about the quality of the activities we pursue instead of the quantity, what is all of this media-multitasking contributing to our lives?

Thus, the modern day multitasking mentality is driven not only by our need to complete so many tasks, per se, but increasingly by our need to keep up with the constant information streams; and with information everywhere–and gadgets that allow us to access it—we’ve essentially adopted “multi-media-tasking” as a new way of life. The question posed by ethics and technology would be: is it a good life?

Multitasking and “The Good Life”

Examining the good life inevitably asks us to consider what values we cultivate, and whether the path we are going down is the path we should be going down. When we think about technology and multitasking, we often imagine it makes us better communicators, able to be more on top of relevant information, and in general, capable of getting more done (yet whether or not these are achieved is up for debate). But when it comes cultivating the virtues of patience (“Patience is a virtue”, as we all know), or the virtue of perseverance (in other words, sustained attention) where does the multi-tasking mentality lead us? When we think about the quality of the activities we pursue instead of the quantity, what is all of this media-multi-tasking contributing to our lives?

I think the two interesting things to consider on this topic are multitasking’s effect on attention and engagement.

“When we talk about multitasking,” writer Christine Rosen says, “we are really talking about attention: the art of paying attention, the ability to shift our attention, and, more broadly, to exercise judgment about what objects are worth our attention.”

“People who have achieved great things,” she continues, “often credit for their success a finely honed skill for paying attention.”

Isaac Newton said he owed “more to patient attention than any other talent.”

Attention, to be sure, is a critical virtue to cultivate. Isaac Newton said that, for his discovereries, he owed “more to patient attention than any other talent.” Psychologist William James remarked, “The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will.”

“Tell me what you pay attention to,” Philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset said, “and I will tell you who you are.”

So how are all of us multitaskers doing on the attention front? Since we’re paying attention to so many things, we must be getting high marks, right?

Unfortunately, wrong. Studies confirm what I would suspect many people probably already know deep down, as each of us has had the experience of trying to complete a project while doing a million other things, only to get none of them done very well. We are bad at paying attention while we’re multitasking. Really bad at it, in fact.

A recent study conducted by Clifford Nass at Stanford University (carried out with an eye towards today’s “media-multitaskers”) showed this finding. When students were asked to multi-task while performing attentional tasks, the college-aged participants performed horribly on staying focused on what they were asked to focus on. “They’re suckers for irrelevancy,” Nass said. “Everything Distracts Them.”

Not only did they perform poorly on the rote memorization, Nass says, but on analytical types of thinking as well.

“I was very curious because I live in a dormitory here at Stanford, and I was curious how these kids were doing so many things at once. And so I wondered, jeez, you know, what is their special gift? What is their remarkable talent that I seem to lack? And our research suggests they don’t have one…

Even when we did not ask them to do anything close to the level of multitasking they were doing, their cognitive processes were impaired. So basically, they are worse at most of the kinds of thinking not only required for multitasking but what we generally think of as involving deep thought.”

Research on brain scans from UCLA has showed that our brains are terrible at switching tasks, and that doing so even results in a phyisiological stress response. Walter Kirn, Author of “The Autumn of Multitaskers” explains,

“Multitasking messes with the brain in several ways. At the most basic level, the mental balancing acts that it requires—the constant switching and pivoting—energize regions of the brain that specialize in visual processing and physical coordination and simultaneously appear to shortchange some of the higher areas related to memory and learning. Even worse, certain studies find that multitasking boosts the level of stress-related hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and wears down our systems through biochemical friction, prematurely aging us. In the short term, the confusion, fatigue, and chaos merely hamper our ability to focus and analyze, but in the long term, they may cause it to atrophy.”

UCLA psychologist Russell Poldrack adds:

“Multi-tasking adversely affects how you learn.  Even if you learn while multi-tasking, that learning is less flexible and more specialized, so you cannot retrieve the information as easily. Our study shows that to the degree you can learn while multi-tasking, you will use different brain systems.”

An oft cited study of workplace efficiency done by UC Irvine also demonstrated the ineffectiveness of multitasking. Their study showed that employees spent nearly a third of their day recovering from “information overload”, and that it took employees anywhere from 12 to 25 minutes to fully rebound from being distracted from an e-mail or phone call and resume their actual work. This loss of productivity, Balex Research estimates, cost the corporate world an average of $650 billion dollars in revenue due to inefficiency in 2008 (the number has since increased to $900 billion according to their website).

So still think you’re good at multitasking? Nass addresses you in his interview with NPR:

“One of the things that seems to be true is people who multitask very, very frequently believe they are excellent at it, and they’re actually, as far as we can tell, the worst at it of any people.”

And yet, we all multitask, and will likely continue to, perhaps even more so as our gadgets advance. But if the research is to be trusted, then the media-multitaskers must really be missing out: in paying attention to so many things, are we really paying attention to anything at all?


Life as A Multitasker

Examples on a college campus abound in our multitasking, attention-challenged culture. It seems an unwelcome challenge for students to sit for 50 or 90 minutes of class without checking their e-mail, Facebook, or websites on their laptops under the guise of taking notes, or sneaking text messages on their cell phones under their desks. Sitting and reading books or writing a paper for any sustained period of time is like a Sisyphean battle, trying to resist the urge of Youtube, e-mail or some other online interruption only to have to start the assignment over again at the beginning because of all the distractions.  Having a full conversation without someone whipping out and checking his or her cell phone seems to take more willpower than most are willing to exercise.

So what are the implications that this type of attention-splitting has for our ability to engage with what we’re doing? In these instances, it seems, significant opportunities for engagement are lost: for intellectual engagement in class, for deep reading of text and focused, sustained writing, for genuine conversation. What value is gained from reading a book, if while reading that book you are interrupted so many times that you don’t absorb any of it? What worth is there in a conversation with someone if you’re constantly signaling that you’re more interested in a conversation taking place elsewhere? The opportunity to truly immerse yourself with any one thing seems replaced by the opportunity to sort-of engage with ten things.

Going forward, two perspectives emerge for the future of the multitaskers. Sam Anderson, author of “In Defense of Distraction”, takes an optimistic view, thinking that we will adapt to this attention-splitting, media-multitasking mode we are in, and grow as a result:

“There’s been lots of hand-wringing about all the skills (kids who have grown up multitasking) might lack, mainly the ability to concentrate on a complex task from beginning to end, but surely they can already do things their elders can’t—like conduct 34 conversations simultaneously across six different media, or pay attention to switching between attentional targets in a way that’s been considered impossible. …As we become more skilled at the 21st-century task Meyer calls “flitting,” the wiring of the brain will inevitably change to deal more efficiently with more information.

Kids growing up now might have an associative genius we don’t—a sense of the way ten projects all dovetail into something totally new. They might be able to engage in seeming contradictions: mindful web-surfing, mindful Twittering. Maybe, in flights of irresponsible responsibility, they’ll even manage to attain the paradoxical, Zenlike state of focused distraction.”

Christine Rosen, on the other hand, takes a strong view that “continued partial attention” will lead us down a bad road, in her article “The Myth of Multitasking”:

“The picture that emerges of these pubescent multitasking mavens is of a generation of great technical facility and intelligence but of extreme impatience, unsatisfied with slowness and uncomfortable with silence…

Perhaps we will simply adjust and come to accept what (psychologist William) James called “acquired inattention.” E-mails pouring in, cell phones ringing, televisions blaring, podcasts streaming – all this may become background noise, like the “din of a foundry or factory” that James observed workers could scarcely avoid at first, but which eventually became just another part of their daily routine. …(But) when people do their work only in the “interstices of their mind-wandering,” with crumbs of attention rationed out among many competing tasks, their culture may gain in information, but it will surely weaken in wisdom.”

“If Einstein were alive today, he’d probably be forced to multitask so relentlessly that he’d never get a chance to work out the theory of relativity”

On this issue, I’m more inclined to agree with Rosen than with Anderson. Though Anderson has a point that we will likely adapt, I question his premise: is “focused distraction” something we should be aiming for? Do we really want to promote this type of information grazing across so many mediums, in place of deep engagement with singular activities? Consider Multitasking expert David Meyer’s comment: “If Einstein were alive today, he’d probably be forced to multitask so relentlessly in the Swiss patent office that he’d never get a chance to work out the theory of relativity.”

I think another interesting question to consider is one posed by “lifehacker” Merlin Mann, who Anderson interviewed in his article. “Is it clear to you,” Mann says, “that the last fifteen years represent an enormous improvement in how everything operates?”

I would imagine many people, particularly technology enthusiasts, would answer, “Of course!” (the iPhone users in particular). But it’s an interesting question to consider: how do we define improvement? Does it mean more information, at a faster rate? If so, then the answer would unequivocally be yes.  But what happens when we define improvement as deep, sustained interest in activities, better human interactions, and enjoyment of day-to-day life? Under these premises, have all of these multitasking-enabling technologies improved, or detracted from, our lives?


How has technology changed the way you multitask?

What effect has multitasking had on the amount of attention you pay to things, and how engaged you are in the activities you do?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Listen to Stanford University’s Clifford Nass talk about his study on media-multitaskers on NPR:

72 Responses to “Media-Multitasking and ‘The Good Life’”

  1. Andrew says:

    This article raises some interesting questions about the usefulness of multitasking. On one level, multitasking is harmful: divided attention means lower net productivity. On another level, though, multitasking seems to be an essential and inescapable aspect of human life. Biologically, we are nothing but unrelenting multitaskers. Our hearts beat as our eyes blink as our lungs inhale – all because multiple networks of neurons fire simultaneously. Biological multitasking underlies all complex behavior. But is this really the ‘type’ of multitasking that this article discusses? There seems to be a difference between hearts beating and eyes blinking, on the one hand, and iPhone emailing and medical school studying, on the other. And this difference might lie in the physical vs. the mental. Physical processes, like the beating of a heart or the blinking of an eye, happen involuntarily: they are reflexive and instinctual behaviors, deeply embedded into the fabric of complex biological systems. Mental processes, like memorizing human anatomy or navigating through email on an iPhone, happen because we make them happen. The question is whether mental multitasking, unlike biological multitasking, is necessarily counterproductive. Some argue that the answer is an unequivocal ‘yes.’ Walter Kirn notes, “the mental balancing acts that [multitasking] requires—the constant switching and pivoting—energize regions of the brain that specialize in visual processing and physical coordination and simultaneously appear to shortchange some of the higher areas related to memory and learning.”

    Why is biological multitasking so beneficial and mental multitasking so harmful? Sure, as Kirn notes, neurological evidence suggests that attempts at multitasking actually ‘shortchange areas related to memory and learning.’ But perhaps we’re simply on the way to becoming as proficient at mental multitasking as we are currently at biological multitasking. If we look at the development of life on earth, we see that the kind of biological multitasking that keeps us alive today didn’t exist a few a billion years ago, when life first started forming. The biological processes in the first unicellular organisms were not of same complexity as those in today’s higher life forms; prokaryotic cells’ survival, for example, required only ‘simple’ biological tasks like organizing amino acids into proteins. After billions of years of evolution, however, these unicellular organisms developed into multicellular, biologically multitasking organisms – and in the process the mental realm emerged from the growing organizational complexity of the physical realm. If the physical realm developed an ability to multitask, why then wouldn’t the mental realm follow suit – especially if the mental emerged from the physical. Perhaps in a billion years, sentient organisms will be able to engage productively in multiple mental tasks at once – in the same way the human body is now able to engage in multiple biological tasks at once. The involuntary biological multitasking of complex, multicellular organisms could not have been predicted a priori from unicellular organisms – perhaps this is true of mental multitasking as well.

  2. nhughett says:

    Guilty as charged, I am the ultimate media multitasker. Perhaps this is because I do not know any other way to effectively work. Growing up in Silicon Valley I have always had a computer in front of me, my blackberry in hand, and the television going on all at the same time. For me this is a preference, I enjoy staying on task and keeping busy, even if it is at the expense of constantly switching my attention. After reading all of the studies throughout the article, I am ashamed to agree that I too start at my computer (along with other devices) for almost 8 hours a day. Of course I could blame most of this time in homework for school, but that isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy surfing the web and logging onto Facebook every time I receive a new comment on my wall. What has made my multitasking life so much more complicated is having all of my devices on my phone. With an app. for facebook, myspace, e-mail, google and school work it seems I always have information at the tip of my fingers at the cost of never being able to put my phone down. I currently have 5 browser windows open on my laptop, with 2 tabs on each of the windows. On my phone, I can open any application I wish while switching back and forth, chewing bubble gum, planning my night ahead, taking notes of a class lecture and daydreaming simultaneously. These facts are not some that I am particularly proud of, but they make me question how mulititasking (especially with media) has consumed so much of my life?

    As I mentioned before, I am simply used to this lifestyle and found that some days multitasking is the only way to productively accomplish something. This harsh fact relates to how I have learned this trait through our society. As our technologies advance so does our sense of time and space. Our world is moving at such a fast pace these days that I notice myself becoming irritable if my browser window is not loading fast enough, my coffee is not ready on time, or simply waiting for others to complete a task. I have no time to waste in a day and therefore no time to rest. This is true for almost every person who has a job, family and life within todays society. Our world has made it so that we all must be excellent multitaskers so we do not fall behind. I assume that when I graduate from college, I will no longer be cramming in the wee hours of the night over a paper, but instead be working on a presentation for the office. Instead of being consumed with homework each day, I will find myself with the same amount if not more work ahead of me. This is a harsh reality that our society has faced and unfortunately as I see it we are only going to begin losing our time even more. It is exhausting to keep up with the norms of our harsh technological world, but as long as I have known I have always been a media multitasker. For me, this is not a huge issue, I am just glad I realize this and am able to take a breath for myself once in a while.

    • ATomasello says:


      As a fellow Silicon Valley native, I understand the second nature of media multitasking. To me, talking on the cell phone, using an app, listening to movies, and typing a paper while surfing Facebook isn’t an exception, rather it’s the norm. It would be strange if I had my undivided attention on one thing. In fact, lately it has become nearly impossible. While in the library, I find myself “attempting” to do homework. It seems that I can never dedicated my undivided attention to one thing, rather I have technological Attention Deficit Disorder. Its not that I don’t get the work done, I just have to be stimulated and entertained while doing so. At times I feel as though I need constant media attention and I believe the iPhone does just that.
      In 2010, the Today Show and Good Morning America commented on the phenomenon of the iPhone with the popular phrase “There’s an app for that.” In today’s society it seems as though there is an app for just about anything. From restaurants, to gaming, to social media, to checking prices, my handy little telephone does it all. Thinking back to middle school when texting was just becoming popular, it seems as though the world has been redefined. And I have grown up with it. My position in the Silicon Valley has most definitely influenced my dependency because the technology is so apparent here. When I think of my technology dependency, I am torn. Part of me thinks it is just the natural progression of society whereas another piece of me sees my dependency as a hindrance, rather than a benefit.
      Moreover, your point that you bring up about the impatience caused by media demand definitely hit home to me. When my computer freezes, my iPhone malfunctions or the line is too long,
      Your point about patience and demand hit home to me. When my computer freezes, the line is too long, or someone isn’t moving quite fast enough for me, I grow easily agitated. I realize these tendencies when I spend a great deal of time on my various media devices. My senses and emotions are heightened, and I maintain an “I want it now” mentality. Any sense of patience and grace that I possess is wiped away when the world doesn’t operate at a quick enough pace for me. Honestly, I blame my impatient and irrational behavior on technology. Its provided me with such a quick, fast-paced, convenient lifestyle that I struggle to maintain normal social behaviors. It’s a love hate relationship though, because I do believe that technology makes the world a better place.

  3. Calliopi Hadjipateras says:

    I would have to take a dystopian point of view regarding the effects of multitasking technology has created. While technological advancements have created new potentials and opportunities with what we can do in a short period of time, are we really getting anything out of it? Is it really productive multitasking? Or blind multitasking? Right now, I have an overwhelming number of windows open. My Facebook page, my e-mail, my Communication class homepage, Santa Clara University homepage, course availability site, Microsoft word, …the list goes on. I think that if I only had this one website open, I would feel underproductive and like I could be doing more. This mentality is a direct result of technology. If technology didn’t make it possible for me to be “doing” so many things at once, there would be no need to feel like I have to have one hundred windows open while I am in front of the screen. The effect multitasking has had is somewhat bittersweet: while it creates this notion that I am getting a lot more done in a shorter period of time, I am actually focusing less attention over a wider range of things. The negative effects of multitasking are somewhat hidden; they are only brought to the fore when you really sit down and think about how easy it is to text, Facebook, e-mail, and browse the web all at once. It’s truly overwhelming and it is scary to think that this is what I have become used to. Even take the blackberry—just on this single technological device, I can use my multitasking skills to the fullest: check my Facebook, get an email, get a text message, and listen to a voicemail. The options are endless. What’s ironic is that the more multitasking I do, the more stressed I feel. While it may appear like I am getting a lot done at once, this is certainly not the case.

    • cbuckley says:

      After reading many of the responses from this blog, I have noticed that many people have become to feel that multi-tasking brings about a dystopian point of view on it whether it be because it causes stress or one may feel as if they aren’t getting much done. I would have to disagree with this and still give myself a utopian point of view on multi-tasking because of the endless amounts of things one can get done by multi-tasking. With my utopian point of view on multi-tasking, I back this up because of the variety of ways I am able to accomplish things such as respond to a text, send out a quick email, have a three minute phone conversation, and even update my Facebook status, all within 10 minutes. Not only am I being productive but it is also allowing me to be timely efficient.
      From the variety of posts about this blog what I notice many people argue is the down-side to multi-tasking is the stress it can bring someone. I feel differently on this because while one is able to get a multiple things done in just a matter of minutes, this makes me feel relieved and accomplished. Although I am constantly working different parts of my brain and possibly over using it, it gives me a productive feeling. I, too, will use the Blackberry phone as an example to some of the positive effects of multi-tasking. With this phone I am capable of sending and receiving texts, place phone calls, receive and send emails, update my Facebook, and even personalize my calendar. By doing all these things, I am in no way putting stress on myself, rather I am feeling more accomplished and able to get more things done in a less amount of time.

  4. GTaylor says:

    Multitasking has never been one of my strengths in life. But as I have gotten older, and advancements have been made in the realm of technology, I have slowly tried to teach myself how to multitask, especially when doing work. The problem is, it is still hard for me to do, and being in a dorm at college surrounded by energized students can make it even harder for me to concentrate. It is not that I do not listen to music while searching the web or talking with friends, but I try to avoid multitasking when actual work is involved.
    I realize that with the world becoming so fast-paced, multitasking is almost a necessity now-a-days. We can see the lack of attention people have when they must divert themselves to one specific thing. Just look at music videos or sports news shows; the clips are extremely short., and camera angles change frequently. This shows that even in many professional settings, people need to at least be able to multitask.
    The fact that people always need to be doing something is the main reason the iphone has taken off in popularity. The iphone is the multitasking tool of the century. While we are walking to our next destination, we can check our email, listen to music, and read news articles; the possibilities are endless. Because of this, I worry that my inability to multitask will hurt me later in life, especially regarding jobs.
    However, I also realize that in a school setting, it has a positive side. When it comes to homework, I stay away from music, and I do not sign onto Facebook. Instead, I have to focus on the specific task I am doing. On the other hand, everyone around me tends to strive off of multitasking. They play music, open up five tabs on their Internet browsers, and even talk with other friends, all while writing a paper. In a way, it is nice and peaceful to be able to tone all of these distractions out. I do not need to think about anything other than what I am doing at that point in time. Even with movies or television shows, my one-track mind allows me to fully appreciate what I am up to right then.
    Nevertheless, I must face reality. And reality is pushing me to join in and multitask alongside everyone else, because whether or not I decide to have a one-track mind, people multitasking around me still impact the outcome of what I am doing. In that sense, I have become better at cancelling out the music down the hall in my dorm, or the television pointing in my direction. So as for now, I will attempt to remain away from multitasking. That is, if work is involved.

  5. acperez1 says:

    I must say, I am constantly multitasking and usually one of my tasks includes technology. Tuesday is my day to cook and while doing so, I am on the phone with one of my sisters while watching TV. That type of multitasking does work for me and I do get more things done. However, when it comes to higher cognitive activities I do not recommend multitasking. I have had the experience of writing up something while seeing TV and when I go back and check I realize that I wrote a couple of words that express what I am watching and not what I am thinking about. This is evidently not time efficient and affects me negatively in a direct way. When writing a paper I need to be completely isolated from everything else. Ask me how I do that? I use a technology: sound-canceling earphones. It is inevitable to be in constant contact with technology. However, what distinguishes intelligent people from the rest is that they choose what, when and where they use technology depending on the circumstances. Knowing this does not mean that I strictly follow it. I still cave to multitasking. Without knowing it I sometimes endanger myself by putting on make-up while driving and changing the song on my Ipod. Technology and gadgets are such an essential part of our lives that we do not even notice the degree of attachment we have to them.

  6. GRoy says:

    Multitasking and technology seem to be directly correlated. The most obvious example is cell phones. Before, we used to just talk on them. It was more convenient than dialing house phones looking for your friends. Then phones could take pictures as well as make calls. Then they added video. Think about how many features your phone has today. I can use my phone to simultaneously check my email, sports scores, bank account, and maybe if I have time, use it to call somebody. It isn’t a bad thing either. Just the natural progression of society. Our parents aren’t traditionally good at multitasking because they didn’t practice it as much as the younger generation does. The next generation is going to be doing so many things at once it will probably make our heads hurt. But it will just be a regular thing for them. Just a sign of how society is keeping up with increases in technology.

  7. Alex G says:

    I certainly agree that multitasking and technology are related, but I think this is simply because technology makes multitasking possible. Without IPODS, computers, cell phones, and other technological gadgets that are most commonly used to multitask, it would be impossible to multitask in the ways that so many people are accustomed to. I think all of us have worked on papers while listening to music, or attempted to have a conversation with someone who is constantly checking their phone for text messages, e-mails, or facebook messages, and the quality of both are significantly decreased. I think acperez makes a good point, stating that he (or she) remembers writing papers and writing words from the television he is simultaneously watching, and then, looking back, notices that his paper uses words he heard from the television that do not belong in the paper. This is a common problem that I have admittedly had, and again reflects the difficulty of multitasking.
    Still, Sam Anderson’s point in “In Defense of Distraction, argues that our brain may evolve in order to more effectively multi-task. This possibility is intriguing, for if it is truly possible, our abilities could greatly grow. However, without more information, I am not inclined to believe that it is absolutely inevitably that our brain will, “change to deal more effectively with more information”. Even if this is true, how do we know that our brain won’t simultaneously regress in its ability to focus on and analyze one task? If our brain will evolve towards sufficient multitasking with practice, how do we know it won’t lose the abilities of concentration without practice?

    • iscott says:

      I agree with Alex’s statement that places most of the blame on technology for our need to multitask. Without the use of iPods, cell phones, and so forth, I believe it is correct to say that our concentration would be much better. Thus the work that we produce would be greatly improved. In addition, I am also skeptical about the notion that our brains will develop in order to multitask more effectively. That our brains have actually gotten stronger because of multitasking, as presented on msnbc by the studies completed by the neuroscientist Jay Gidde. The questions that are presented by Alex, challenging the notions that our brains might develop to handle multitasking better, bring up a good point. How do we know for sure that constantly multitasking wont lead to something like attention deficit disorder, making it hard for someone to solely work on one task.

      Carroll, Linda. “Will Teen Multitasking give rise to ADD? Study May Offer Answer.” MSN. April 12, 2011.

  8. Jorge Castrillo says:

    My increase in multitasking has lead me to be less engaged in things. I can have several conversations through texting, instant messaging, ect. and since these conversations are being filtered through a screen I can remove myself even a step further from these conversations by watching t.v., listening to music, ect. With modern technology it is very easy to have unengaged social interactions. However, I feel that the new level of multitasking allowed through modern-technology has increased my engagement with some things. My personal example is with video games. (I play a lot of fighting games, and in them timing is key. A combo can go terribly wrong if something isnt timed correctly.) I can more effectively learn combos for fighting games with modern-technology. I can look up how to do the combo on youtube, be playing the game, and talking on a message board with someone about the particular combo. I am multi-tasking; watching a video, talking to someone, and playing a game, but for one goal. So I would say that there is an increased level of engagement with some things. But I am less engaged with most things. There is a constant level of “I would rather be” or “I could rather be” in almost everything I do because in any given situation there is an escape. A text can get me out of any situation, multi-tasking helps me not die of uninterest.

  9. rachel says:

    Regarding technology, I do admit that I multitask. I often find myself doing homework on the computer with at least 3 tabs open (maybe The New Yorker,, Pandora) while conversing with multiple people through text messages and Facebook or email. I’m also probably eating.

    Afterwards, I think: what did I just get done? Where did all that time go?

    I realize that multitasking is paradoxical and ultimately futile (as the studies confirm). So while I do cave sometimes, I don’t think the intention behind my multitasking is informed by some belief that the more tasks I devote my attention to, the more specific work I will accomplish; time and time again, I realize that this is impossible. I think multitasking has emerged as a current, relatively new trend because of how technology is designed to work in the first place. Technology allows us to reach goals through efficient, quick, cheap, relatively pain-free means, and mandates nearly every aspect of human life: economics, production, politics, education, the media, communication, the internet, and so forth. So when we use technology (which we do, every day, all the time), this is exactly our mindset: to reach goals quickly and efficiently. When we approach tasks, then, we approach them with one thing in mind: how can I get all these things done in the last amount of time while expending the least amount of energy?

    Although I can’t recall the specific details, I once heard of a study that reflected this phenomenon by demonstrating a bizarre effect of repeated and excessive use of computers on human interaction. The study basically showed that people who sit in front of a computer screen all day (probably multitasking, whether for work, entertainment, communication, etc.) adopt certain expectations of how the device should operate, process, and respond to their input. The users described the main characteristics of the computers as predictable, controllable, efficient, fast, easy, convenient, impersonal, and so on. The effect of this continued use of and interaction with these technologies actually carried over to the people’s interactions with other humans. So, the user would begin to automatically attribute characteristics as those that human should embody, without realizing those characteristics are specific to computers. The users demonstrated severe impatience and frustration towards the error, slowness, and inefficiency of other human workers because they expected them to operate like computers.

    Now, I remember being very troubled by this phenomenon because I didn’t understand it at the time. But with all these new studies on the effects of multitasking, it is much clearer to me. The way in which we engage ourselves with technology really does affect our views on or expectations of productivity. Through multitasking, our attention spans are increasingly dwindled, and have profound impacts on our more aspects of our lives than we are aware.

    • jberberoglu says:

      I agree with Rachel’s statement that multitasking has become a trend. When I reflect on the various ways that I multitask throughout the day, I do most of these things without even realizing that I am multitasking. Performing any daily activity with music on for example, is what I consider helping me to focus on the task at hand. I also forget that texting and calling counts for an additional task, as it has become so normal to be on my cell phone while doing just about anything. So much of the technology out today is about following a fad; having the latest iphone or apple technology, the most high tech camera, the fastest internet. People are jumping from one thing to the next following what is popular and each time the technology is advancing to allow us to do so many different things it becomes second nature.
      I also think that the study Rachel had mentioned was really interesting, and could potentially be used as a prediction for what the future could hold if we are not conscious of how often we use our technology. It is so easy to replace human tasks with machines and to get caught up in the world of technology that we forget what life was like prior to them. People can grow so accustom to the convenience and perfection that technology often times provides us with, that I can see how it would be easy to become frustrated with natural human error once put back into our natural environment. It is so easy to travel down the path of technological survival but it is important to remember that there are some things we need to still do on our own, and that it is still humans we share this world with, not just machines.

  10. jberberoglu says:

    As I read this article, I found myself to be very guilty of the accusations made. I have become so accustom to doing multiple different things at once that I forget it is not only unnatural but also that it can affect what I retain from the primary thing I am trying to accomplish. Even as I sat here reading the blog, I found myself stopping halfway to send an email I had forgotten about, answering a phone call mid-sentence, and stopping a few times throughout the reading to look up and see what is happening around me at the university library. I am also used to checking my phone multiple times throughout a class period, or while doing some work for school without thinking twice about the effect it could have on my learning or focus. I found it incredibly interesting in the article when it stated that it can take 12 to 25 minutes to be able and regain attention and focus to what you were previously doing prior to a certain distraction. I think that this comes so naturally to us, especially those of us in the millennial generation who have grown up with technology as a part of our lives from day one.
    The television for example, is something that I have always thought of as good “background noise”, something that I can have on while I am doing other things such as checking email or facebook on my computer, doing homework, or having a conversation. For many people, watching TV is a primary focus, when they are watching a show or movie it is all they are doing, but too many times have I flipped through the channels only to land on a re-run of a show I have seen before, and left it on while I complete a few other tasks at the same time. According to Jingbo Meng and Daniel McDonald’s paper, “Predictors and Impacts of TV Multitasking and Simultaneous Multiple Media Use”, television ownership predicted a higher likelihood of multiple media use. A study conducted also showed that 89.9% of people multitasked at least one other activity while watching television, 48.8% of them reading print media or on the Internet. While this is something that I have done hundreds of times, I know that my focus on one activity won’t be as strong simply because of the fact that I am forced to use several different senses at once for different activities, rather than one. I am listening to what is on the television while also trying to read something online.
    When I think of how I often times choose to study for a class or an exam, it often involves a few tabs open, one with the Pandora radio sight where I will have music playing to “help” my studying and focus, my facebook page, my email, the page I may be using for my research, my cell phone next to me, and often times a friend sitting next to me who may be working on a similar assignment. The time it takes me to complete what I am trying to do is so much more than it should if I had only decided to focus solely on the task at hand instead of trying to do so many things at once. I often justify this with “taking a study break” to refresh my mind and refocus, when in reality I’m only distracting myself even more. With all the different media options available today, which are coming together and allowing me to have all my medias on one source, such as a cell phone, it is impossible to not get distracted or be curious about what is going on around me at all times, as it is all accessible to me wherever I am just with the push of a button.

    • KFuelling says:

      Today people believe that it is possible to complete the art of multitasking, which involves performing more than one task at a time and using multiple mediums such as a computer, mp3, or any other form of media in conjunction with one another. People have tricked themselves into believing they have a high tolerance and ability to retain information as well as the ability to function and be productive while doing more simultaneously. It seems obvious that this is false and that people would only become more distracted, yet more and more of us try it, from listening to the radio while we do homework or texting while driving. It is inefficient, dangerous and disproves those who believe they can function this way. Current research has found that humans cannot focus as well while dividing their time among more tasks, especially those utilizing media.
      The NY Times completed a study questioning the human’s ability to drive and text at the same time. Again, it seems wrong and dangerous that people think they can divide their attention between a cell phone and the road, yet they still do it. Not only does it endanger their own life, but those around them, walking, biking, and driving. The NY Times found that drivers overestimate their ability to multitask behind the wheel, proving that we feel we are capable of almost anything. It is impossible to double one’s attention so that he or she can pay 100% equally to the task at hand. Instead, his or her focus is being divided by the amount of media being used, whether it is two or even five or more mediums simultaneously. The issue at hand is that people give themselves too much credit for what they can achieve.
      Finally, NPR has found research that our ability to “multitask” especially using media is just a myth. This ability to do several things at once does give us an evolutionary edge to how much we can achieve. However, when we are focusing on too many things, we only retain the necessary information, if any, to become proficient and rarely the ability to excel at a certain task. What scientists and neuroscientists such as Earl Miller have found is that the brain is very good at deluding or tricking itself (Hamilton 1). Even though people have created the idea that they can become efficient while doing two or more things at once such as writing e-mail and talking on the phone, those are nearly impossible. It takes one’s full attention to be explicit and clearly get a point across to both receiving parties. We are asking our brain to do too much and this research has shown that the brain is indeed struggling. Humans do not have the ability, no matter how much they think they can, to do multiple tasks well at the same time, however they do have an innate capacity to switch tasks or focus with surprising speed. So instead of trying to complete two homework assignments or look at various articles, it is best for the brain to focus on one, complete it and then move on. Chances are and more and more research finds that you will probably retain more this way and be more productive than attempting to do it all at once.

      • emorimoto says:

        I agree with KFuellings statement that people believe they have conquered the art of multitasking when in fact they have not. For many the ability to multitask is something to brag about when in reality it’s not. According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press and KFuellings information from the NPR, multitasking isn’t an ability one should want to hone.
        Multitasking leads to a person having the inabiltiy to filter out irrelevant information from relevant, inefficiency at juggling problems/work, and the need to find new information rather than work with older and more reliable information. These symptoms from multitasking will hold a person back rather than make them more efficient at the several things they are attempting to accomplish.

        Ritchel, Matt. “Attached to Technology, Multitasking Takes a Toll | Chattanooga Times Free Press.” Home Page | Chattanooga Times Free Press. 7 June 2010. Web. 14 Feb. 2011. .

  11. Jackie F says:

    In the past few minutes that I sat down to read and reflect on this blog, I must admit that I have also utilized a few different technologies to complete the following actions:
    -briefly browsed through facebook
    -received and sent six text messages total
    -responded to an email from a professor
    -received 2 phone calls
    It is clear that I am a victim of the compulsion to multi-task.
    Technology plays an extremely significant role in my efforts to communicate with peers, family members, professors, classmates, friends, employers, etc. I feel that because technology has become such an intricate and oftentimes necessary form to use in order to communicate, multi-tasking becomes easy and at times necessary if one wishes to respond to messages in a timely manner.
    At times, I do worry about effects of living in such a fast paced society. It seems our generation is becoming accustomed to instant gratification and constant communication. We are constantly surrounded by and engaged with social networking sites, cell phones, television, email, etc. Realizing the extent of our generation’s avid consumption of the media and technology makes me wonder what transcendentalists like Thoreau would have to say about our current society and the multi-tasking tendencies of a college student in the Silicon Valley.
    I feel that this statement made earlier in the blog posting, accurately summarizes the multi-tasking phenomena of our present day and age: “It seems an unwelcome challenge for students to sit for 50 or 90 minutes of class without checking their e-mail, Facebook, or websites on their laptops under the guise of taking notes, or sneaking text messages on their cell phones under their desks.” This claim is backed up by a PEW Research study performed in February of 2010 which found that 81% of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are wireless internet users, 72% of them have a social networking site, 75% post or read status updates of Twitter and Facebook, and 93% have a cell phone. With evidence pointing towards the need for constant communication through the use of of technologies and avid consumption of media, it should not come as a surprise that college students can barely sit through a class without become distracted by the surrounding technologies; multi-tasking is becoming embedded in our culture.
    It is clear that isolation is something that no one really seeks anymore. People never choose to be alone because they are so invested in multi-tasking by engaging and using the many forms of technology that are so easily accessible to them. I worry that people my age are losing the ability to fully live in the present moment. The constant use of many different forms of technology provides us with the opportunity to be distracted and lose sight of reality. People become overly concerned with updating their Facebook status, checking out the latest YouTube video, but my concern is what did they miss out on in real life when they were busy posting those pictures? Our generation is becoming defined by technology and the way we avidly pursue it. 

    • SCovell says:

      I completely agree with the claim Jackie F posted stating that “it seems an unwelcome challenge for students to sit for 50 or 90 minutes of class without checking their e-mail, Facebook, or websites on their laptops under the guise of taking notes, or sneaking text messages on their cell phones under their desks.” It is very true that technological multitasking has become that much apart of our culture and day-to-day life, especially for our generation currently in high school and college. I will admit that it is very challenging to sit through a class without checking my cell phone. When I feel the vibration of my cell phone in my book bag, all I want to do is see who is trying to communicate with me and what they said. It’s funny, I use my cell phone for so much and rely on it for so many things, and I am shocked when I do not have a text message or email waiting for me when class is over. Honestly, that’s pathetic. This is certainly an effect of the fast paced society Jackie F mentions. I am so used to the instant and constant communication technology happening at almost every moment of my life that when something is not happening, I question it. As I thought about this truth while writing my response, I brought it up to my peers. They never realize that they are in a sense offended when they check their phones after a night’s sleep or after not looking at it for an entire class period and there is no new message to read. This is the same for Facebook and receiving notifications. Every time I log onto my Facebook and there isn’t the red notification telling me there is something new in regards to my profile, it is slight let down. It is also funny to me that “a study break” really means that I get to check Facebook or my text messages. Actually, come to think of it I check my messages as I study and do homework. It is a treat to check Facebook while studying.

    • KateMadden says:

      I completely agree with Jackie F on the point that no one seeks isolation anymore these days. Jackie F points out that “People never choose to be alone because they are so invested in multi-tasking by engaging and using the many forms of technology that are so easily accessible to them”. I believe that the fear of being detached from the social environment around us is one of the main reasons we cannot live a day without the technologies that connect us. We are constantly wondering what others in our social communities are doing and this “instant gratification” of automatically seeking information from others has caused us to lose the ability to be alone.
      In the article, “Portrait of a Multitasking Mind” written by Naomi Kenner and Russell Polldrek, the authors point out that “It seems that chronic media-multitaskers are more susceptible to distractions. In contrast, people who do not usually engage in media-multitasking showed a greater ability to focus on important information”. This inability to focus on one specific task because of our need to multi-task has caused us to value breadth over depth.
      Overall I agree with Jackie F and the authors of the article source and the authors of this page in that there should be a worry about our generation and the ways in which we are becoming more and more dependent upon and obsessed with modern technologies and media forms. It makes me wonder what is in store for our future generations and whether this multi-tasking “on steroids” will continue or start to die out?

      Kenner, Naomi, and Russell Poldrack. “Portrait of a Multitasking Mind: Scientific American.” Science News, Articles and Information | Scientific American. Web. 14 Feb. 2011. .

  12. DTCarlin says:

    I admit myself as I read this blog I had eight window tabs open, which of course included my perpetually open facebook tab. In addition to that, I had my television on and my cellphone directly at my side. Once I really started reading I turned off the television because, as I have learned through many failed attempts, trying to read while hearing an different audio soundtrack does not work for me. I cannot multitask by listening to one thing and reading another. The only type of homework I can successfully complete, and still it takes me a lot longer, while listening to podcast or music is math work. A quick scan of the university library will show you that most of my peer are in fact listening to music or podcasts while they do their homework. I have learn that I do not have the capacity to do this. I am well aware of some of the limitation of my own ability to multitask.

    The question that the author asks that caught my attention was, “Is your cellphone within a hands reach?”. My question growing off of this is: How many of us can honestly say that our cellphone is ever really further than that? Our phone is constantly with us. I know many people that will forget a form of identification before they forget their phones. There are many place we take are phones and many things that we do with our phones that we never would have even considered doing before the cellphone. The cellphone has revolutionized communication but also revolution our societal openness. The cellphone has become so much a part of us that when I was reading her questions I had to think about whether I would consider using my cellphone while doing my homework multitasking or whether I felt responding to my phone is attending to the priority task. When the “ding” goes off telling me I have a new text message or bbm I stop what I’m doing and answer it. I do this not because I think whatever has just come in over the phone is more important than what I am doing currently, but because it is instinctual for me to reach for the phone. I think that is because I view it with some level of priority. We have become like Pavlov’s dog, trained by instinct to respond to the ding of a cellphone even when it is not our own.

    Honestly I know that the phone is a major form of distraction and a primary device for multitasking. Even though I like to think that the cellphone cannot possibly be hurting my productivity or my ability to absorb information, deep down I know that it does interfere with how I am learning and what information I actually take in. When I walk from class to class reading the New York Times on my cellphone I am missing out on a lot that is going on around me. When I check my phone during class because the little red light is flashing in my face, again I am missing what I should really be paying attention to. Even when we try to resist the urge to multitask in a way that resistance is a form of multitasking itself.

    I read an article in the Washington Post by Lori Aratani titled “Teens can multitask, but What are Costs?”. This article was interesting because it specifically separated teen multitasking from adult multitasking. It said that multitasking in teens can be particularly problematic because at that point their brains are still developing. For me this makes perfect sense as I why I cannot multitask while reading. I am dyslexic, so reading has always been something that demands my full focus and the full attention of my brain. I learned to read by physically sounding out the letters and hearing them because of this a lot of times I find myself almost whispering while I read, therefore when I am listening to something else I cannot hear myself whisper. I believe that the way my brain developed directly effects my capacity to multitask. The article said that one of the effects of multitasking will be that person multitasking will not have as knowledge that is as deep as those who do not multitask.

    Another interesting article that I read by Clifford Nass from Nieman Reports titled “Thinking About Multitasking: It’s What Journalists Need to Do”. This article was interesting because it took a look at another part of the picture. It was not about why students should stop multitasking or how multitasking effects productivity. Instead, it was about how media needs to change and adjust because of the fact that much of their audience is simultaneously doing 6 other different things. The issue has become that long forms of media do not hold the attention of the reader and instead the reader moves onto a different form of the news. However, the one author that wrote the long article might have something profound to say or may have been offering a more complete picture. This is what is missed by a large number of readers, because they will not bother to read the full article they miss out on what that particular author is saying. The effects that multitasking has on our ability to pick out relevant information, hold information in our short term memory and switch from task to task affects the way we would like to see media introduced. There are new pressures on the industry to change for the developing demand. Journalists did not become journalist to write in the way society demands, however now if they wish to keep their jobs they must adapt to the new short form media.

  13. sjuda says:

    Before starting this article I thought to myself “I am going to read this and not multitask while I do so, because that would totally contradict everything I’m learning,” but while reading this, even the mention of some of the tasks people do while multitasking made me distracted. First I got thirsty, so I thought I would get myself a juice. As non-technological that is, it was still multitasking every time I took a sip. Then, I got a little hungry, and same thing. Then, I went to sign in partway through reading the article, when I got distracted for a little, and it said I should check my email to get my password to reply on the blog itself. This opened a whole new can of worms. The tabs on my browser started popping up, it wasn’t automatic for the browser, but it was automatic in my mind.

    I guess I have to admit it: I have become addicted to multitasking. Until I read this article I didn’t think of it to be much of a problem. I knew I could have self control and not do things, like go on facebook, when I didn’t want to, or when I was busy. But thinking about everything else I do in my life, most everything seems to have another thing tagged along. Some of them to the point where I don’t think I could do it otherwise – but this article, and others like Cognitive control in media multitaskers, by Eyal Ophir, Clifford Nass, and Anthony D. Wagner, show that researchers found that “heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability, likely due to reduced ability to filter out interference from the irrelevant task set,” and proves my thoughts to be wrong. They found that multitaskers are actually less productive when multitasking.

    The problem when it comes to multitasking in today’s society, is that it is easier to multitask than to focus on one thing at a time. Every medium used in today’s society offers multiple services, and even watching television can be considered multitasking in the simplest of forms, where you are using two senses, both watching and listening. Helene Hembrooke and Geri Gay in their article The Laptop and The Lecture discuss the impact of the laptop in the classroom for students and they say that “Depending on the boundaries and intent for using these tools in the classroom setting, a student might engage in myriad computing activities, from synchronous and asynchronous social computing, to note taking, to Web browsing.” – a classic form of multitasking I’m sure we can all relate to. Hembrooke and Gay suggest that students should try and “become ‘better browsers’, or at the very least become more facile at self-monitoring their browsing behavior, the typical decrement found under multitasking conditions might be negated.”

    I guess I should get it out of my mind that I am more productive when doing multiple things at once, and save homework time for homework and relaxation time for relaxation.

    —- sources

    Journal of Computing in Higher Education Fall 2003, Vol. 15(1).
    The Laptop and the Lecture:
    The Effects of Multitasking in
    Learning Environments
    Helene Hembrooke and Geri Gay
    Human Computer Interaction Laboratory Cornell University

  14. KateMadden says:

    Ironically enough, before reading this blog I used to consider myself a horrible multi-tasker. Little did I know that multi-tasking is much simpler and subconscious than I could have ever imagined. As I sit here writing this blog entry I am listening to music, receiving a few text messages from my cell phone and watching the Santa Clara Bronco game on the TV. People may ask why I considered myself to be a horrible multi-tasker because it seems to be pretty obvious that I perform many different tasks simultaneously. But to me, these actions were not notable enough for me to even realize that I was in fact doing them.
    I like the way the author of this article has termed this new form of multi-tasking as “multi-tasking on steroids” because I feel that it is a completely accurate description of what has happened with the introduction of modern technology. We no longer settle for completing two tasks simultaneously, instead we focus on striving to achieve as many goals at once as humanly (or mechanically) possible. This need to be more and more efficient and complete more and more tasks in a lesser amount of time with as little effort as possible has become engrained in us as technology users.
    As Sam Anderson describes it in his article “In Defense of Distraction”, it has become almost impossible to completely unplug ourselves from all of these devices that we feel a strong urge to keep checking and rechecking every couple of minutes. In a personal example I have found myself reflecting on what it would be like if I accidentally dropped or broke my iPhone and could not get another one for a couple of days because a friend of mine recently broke their phone. I tried to imagine how I would get through a complete day without my precious iPhone which allows me to accomplish so many tasks in a effortless and timely manner. It is embarrassing to admit that I would feel completely and totally lost without having my cellular device attached at my hip throughout the day. Even when I simply forget to bring it with me I can feel the stress of not having it and not being able to immediately check and perform tasks with it. This desperate need to be attached to the tools and devices that make our lives easier for us cannot, in my mind, be a good thing. This article brings up the question of whether or not this new multi-media-tasking lifestyle is a good life or not, and unfortunately the question has left me pondering with no good reasons to say it is.

    • sjuda says:

      KateMadden, I agree with you and the idea of the author calling current multi-tasking “multi-tasking on steroids,” and I would even go as far as saying that this new form of multi-tasking is the only problem I see when it comes to the world of multi-tasking.
      I see very few issues with walking and talking on the phone, and feel its is a good way to manage your time. If you weren’t talking and walking at the same time, you would be sitting and talking, which would be forcing you to walk somewhere later – possibly making you late to your next appointment, class, or meeting. This form of multi-tasking is time efficient, and because both activities are close to mindless on their own, the combination of the two allows citizens of our hectic society to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time.
      “Multi-tasking on steroids,” however, is a different story. The idea of multi-tasking in our society has become something far more complex than simply walking and talking on the phone. We walk, talk, answer text messages, check our email (and reply), listen to music, and eat a sandwich all at once. This is where I see a problem in multi-tasking. We have taken something that used to be only two mindless activities and combined them with multiple other activities that shouldn’t be mindless. We need to pay full attention to certain things, like when students are in class, or a doctor is performing surgery. Some things are meant to be used for multi-tasking, and I feel, even within those, there is a time and a place for it. The iphone is great if you are the passenger in the car and you are multi-tasking by using the GPS and music functions of the device, but if you are the driver who is driving and trying to perform the other two tasks, we have a problem. According to the study Divided Representation of Concurrent Goals in the Human Frontal Lobes published in Science, in April 2010, “The human frontal function seems limited to driving the pursuit of two concurrent goals simultaneously.”
      I agree with this statement, and those made in the blog, but I do feel there are occasions when multi-tasking is not as harmful as some may think, and can actually be a helpful tool in time management.

    • Hannah Scott says:

      Kate, I agree with what you said that the things that you were doing weren’t notable enough to even recognize its significance in multi-tasking. I find myself to be doing many things at once, but I also realize that the attention value that I give to each task is fragmented and I can’t give continuous concentration on one task. Personally as well, I find I cannot function without my phone being right beside me at all hours of the day. I think that we have become so dependent on technology to get things accomplished in a timely manner that we find ourselves trying to do too many things at once. As efficiency increases, it seems our quality decreases because our brains aren’t designed to complete two or more tasks at the same time. When you mention Sam Anderson and his article “In Defense of Distraction”, I agree you cannot unplug yourself from everything, but I do think that there is a way to limit the things you are plugged into. For example, listening to music, watching t.v. and doing homework puts more stress on your brain than simply doing your homework and then watching t.v or listening to music. Our generation is so focused on fast results that we fail to realize that we have the time to get everything done without trying to do it all at once. Below, what Sjuda says, that we need to pay full attention to certain things is completely correct. And I agree when sjuda says, “there is a time and place for it.” I think also that when sjuda says this, she’s trying to differentiate good multi-tasking and bad multi-tasking. There are times when multi-tasking does not interfere with more important things and doesn’t have a negative outcome. And then there are times when multi-tasking becomes the problem (i.e. facebook, homework and applying for jobs all at once). We just need to be more conscious of what actions are harmful or helpful when we multi-task.

  15. ATomasello says:

    Laptop: Check. iPhone: Check. iTunes & Headphones: Check. Facebook: Check. These four are essential to getting me through any assignment. As I read this article, I felt as though I was looking into a mirror. Line after line affirmed my techno-dependencies, and my inability to simply focus on one thing at a time. In fact, it took me 20 minutes after sitting down to finally begin this assignment. The four different tabs distracted me that I had open on my Firefox, including Facbook, email accounts, and Camino.
    When I read that old-fashioned multitasking was deemed “walking while chewing gum” I found myself laughing out loud. To think that was once considered a big deal. On average I find myself doing at least fifteen things at once. I am a definite victim to media multitasking. It is impossible for me to be on a computer and have a sole application open. It makes me wonder—is this a good thing or a bad thing?
    Linda Stone’s commentary in the article also hit home. I am unable to take a vacation from my media. The times when my iPhone dies I feel completely helpless and nervous. I am unable to chat on the phone, scan my email, shoot someone a text, or browse the web. In essence, I am helpless. Technology and its convenience and availability has made me a entirely dependent. Although my techno-dependencies have made me a little less focused on one task at a time, I feel as though life without my multitasking skill would get me no-where. Is multitasking a distraction or a blessing in disguise?
    According to an article featured in Time magazine on March 27 of 2006, the new generation is prone to this multitasking phenomenon. Claudia Wallis, the author of The Multitasking Generation, comments on this generations ability to e-mail, instant message, download, and write a paper all at the same time. The anecdote provided in this article reminded me of a typical family dynamic, in which the high school aged children spend most of their time behind a computer screen. While on the computer I am not just completing one task, I am doing multiple things in half the time it would take to do them individually.
    An excerpt from this article reads, “The mental habit of dividing one’s attention into many small slices has significant implications for the way young people learn, reason, socialize, do creative work and understand the world. Although such habits may prepare kids for today’s frenzied workplace, many cognitive scientists are positively alarmed by the trend. ‘Kids that are instant messaging while doing homework, playing games online and watching TV, I predict, aren’t going to do well in the long run,” says Jordan Grafman, chief of the cognitive neuroscience section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)” (Wallis, Time Magazine, 2006). I found this extremely interesting and accurate. Today’s generation is redefining efficiency and productivity. Our innate ability to multitask the media is literally programmed into us from a young age. Being a digital native has most definitely provided me with an advantage to my parent’s generation, commonly referred to as digital immigrants. I am able to accomplish digital tasks quickly and efficiently whereas those in generations above would struggle. While many refer to digital multitasking as a cause of threat to society, I must disagree. Multitasking is making this generation stronger. Just as Wallis’ article states, Generation M will be more successful, tacticle, resourceful, and productive due to their ability to perform multiple tasks at once.
    So bring on the multiple tabs, the internet radio, the SmartPhones, and the wireless internet: make me more efficient.

    Wallis, Claudia. “The Multitasking Generation .” Time Magazine 27 Mar. 2006: 57-60. Web. 9 Feb. 2011.

  16. Margaret says:

    I think it is safe to say most of us participate in multitasking, whether we know it or not. For many individuals of the 20’s, it is only natural for us to be connected to our friends and various social networks, while listen to music, and holding a conversation. It has become a part of our culture, and for many of us, we do not give multitasking a second thought. We instinctively have various distractions open or on consuming our attention. Sleeping may be the only time we are incapable of performing multiple actives-beyond necessary bodily function.

    Why do we multitask may be the question we need to ask ourselves. Yes, we have come to believe and buy into the idea there is a constant need to be kept up to date on news and events taking places, even this article claims it to be a culprit. But I am less inclined to believe this influence to be the main cause. Rather, it is our access to these technologies which has changed our perception of time and how events should occur within time. We live in a fast paced society, which is only getting faster. We can access information within seconds from almost anywhere, making patience a thing of the past. So let’s be honest, we get bored easily while doing activities which take time, such as homework. I know from personal experience, I have to have music playing and my phone within reach before I can even start my work. After a while, I turn to other outlets, such as Facebook or checking my e-mail, hoping for something more stimulating. Our ability to maintain full attention on a subject matter is slowly dwindling. With having these outlets and others for the ‘lull’ times, comes the development of the idea of multitasking. In order to get through our homework, we are comforted by the idea that we can put it on hold, speak to a friend, change a song, then get back to work. Our thinking has changed from ‘I will get my reading done, then go see my friends’ to ‘I will have Facebook open, and check it after every page I read’. Since we have the ability to multitask, thanks to technology, we do. Don’t believe me? Think back to your parent’s time. While they did have technologies such as the radio and the phone, they were not in constant interaction with these devices. Sure they had the radio on while doing homework, but have you ever heard of your parents watching TV and listening to the radio doing homework? No, because they didn’t have the same ease and accessibly we have now. It is this which causes us to multitask, we want constant stimulation and because we can get it from multiple sources at once, we do.
    Turning back to the article, I agree with the idea that we believe we are much better at multitasking that we actually are. To quote “studies confirm what I would suspect many people probably already know deep down, as each of us has had the experience of trying to complete a project while doing a million other things, only to get none of them done very well. We are bad at paying attention while we’re multitasking. Really bad at it, in fact.” There is validly in this statement we can see in our own lives. For instance, that homework that would have taken an hour without distraction, turned into a three hour ordeal because I constantly move back and forth between things. This is a bit of an over exaggeration, but idea is there: we are not fully focusing on the homework, thus it takes longer to be completed. The area where this has been the most detrimental is in the case of multitasking while driving.

    In most states, it is now illegal to use your phone and drive, but not every state deals out the same punishment for this violation. In an article written by Matt Richtell in The New York Times, he explains how the state of Utah views texting and driving along the same lines as drinking and driving, and violators will be charged to the full extent of the law. This ruling was brought forward after a teen hit and killed two scientists while texting. Before laws were passed outlawing cell phone use while driving, incidents like this were not rare.

    The logic as to why we feel the need to do this is the combination of the article and my pervious argument. We want to say connected with people and we want to be entertained. If you have never driven a manual car, an automatic one cannot compare. You don’t have as much feel for the car. Losing this connection lets us believe we can do more than just drive- and I’m talking about more than just texting- multitasking can come in many forms. I don’t mean to negate multitasking, I thoroughly enjoy it. I think we need to be cautious about the times and places we do it. If you can’t put down your phone to drive, why are you driving in the first place? Honestly, we just need to get smarter with multitasking in my opinion.

    New York Times:

  17. twomack says:

    In a university library, one can easily glance around and witness a number of students multi-tasking with technology, ear-buds in, laptop open and on, cell phone in hand—all while one claims to be studying. But can one really effectively study with all of these technologies surrounding them and interrupting their train of academic thought? Many studies show that those who multitask face difficulties in learning new material, and thus spend more time attempting to learn concepts than it would normally take without the distraction of multitasking. According to Bell et al in the study “Understanding the Social Implications of Technological Multitasking”, multitasking forces one’s brain to switch back and forth between focusing attention from one project to another. This, in turn results in switching costs, or the loss of time—causing one to seem less determined to finish work. Contrastingly, Bell et al claim that there is research and evidence that supports the thought that polychronic people, or frequent multi-taskers, are perceived as more competent than monochronic individual, or those who prefer to work on one task at a time.
    I personally can identify with the title of polychronic, as I constantly find myself working on multiple things simultaneously. After reading this article, I considered how much time I spend going between different tasks and medias in relation to how much time it takes me to complete a single assignment. I quickly realized that my assignments could potentially be finished much more quickly and effectively if I maintained focus on the single project, and managed to remain unplugged from technologies and media. Now, as a sophomore in college, it has become the norm to log on Facebook, check my email, and listen to my iTunes playlist all while attempting to complete one task. And so I believe, though polychronic individuals may have a reputation of being more competent, that monochronic individuals may successfully produce work more effectively and in a more timely than others similar to myself. Moreover, prior to reading this article and beginning this assignment, I too considered myself a “good multitasker.” However, I have never fully examined the implications of this title. Though I frequently multitask, my multitasking does not aid me in producing more complete or comprehensive assignments for my classes.
    Furthermore, I believe multitasking has infiltrated into our social and family lives. As claimed in this article, it is rare to watch a social interaction between two people where one of the individuals does not pull out his or her cell phone mod-conversation. This requires much self-control, self-control that many of us who have grown up attached to technological products do not have. It is not uncommon to observe family members using technological devices when participating in family activities, or when out at a restaurant. For example, when I was out to lunch with my dad recently, I glanced at the table adjacent to mine and noticed both the father and daughter were on their iPhones. This sort of “multitasking” cannot really be considered multitasking at all, as the father and daughter were hardly interacting at all while they were each independently focusing more attention on their cell phones then on their own live conversations.
    Studies examine the negative impact multitasking has had on their businesses; due to their employees constant multitasking at work, thousands of dollars worth of time has been lost. Again, I am also guilty of multitasking at work, at the expense of my employer. Though it may just be quick glances at my email throughout the day while in my cubicle, it has been proved the human brain needs a sufficient amount of time to then switch back to its previous task. Therefore, although I realize the definite perks and advantages to multitasking, one must also realize the blatant disadvantages to constantly multitasking: switching costs, loss of personal, live interaction with other individuals, and finally, loss of potential income for employers.

    Bell, Caroline S.; Compeau, Deborah R.; and Olivera, Fernando, “Understanding the Social Implications of Technological
    Multitasking: A Conceptual Model” (2005).SIGHCI 2005 Proceedings. Paper 2.

    • hmekonnen says:

      As I attempt to read the responses throughout the blog I ironically find myself distracted and multitasking. As a college student with a ton of work to do I realize that the issue of multitasking is really a concern and a normality among students. In response to this blog, I find many similar aspects in my research and in myself. I have become disconnected from my work because I am so connected to technology and my attention is usually elsewhere or at many places at once. People in this generation have become so interested in doing many things at the same time that multitasking has become a societal norm; we are expected to be able to do more than one thing at a time. The idea that twomack brings up, that people switch their attention from one thing to another and because of this take more time learning new things. The issue with time loss and multitasking interconnect. I also found that because I am constantly focusing on many things at once, I subsequently take more time to finish one task because I have to keep refocusing and lose my train of thought as I switch from task to task. As I read this blog I found many great ideas, like where can the line be drawn between “multitasking” and completely switching tasks. Researching multitasking has opened my eyes to understand that multitasking is more common than one may notice and affects many of us more than we would like to admit. Productivity lags as a result of multitasking but with the research and blogs I have read today it is evident that there are both negative and positive aspects to this multi-tasking epidemic.

  18. jklopez says:

    I believe that multitasking is now part of our life, without realizing we are already using it. Whether we are writing a paper, doing a presentation, or getting our work done multitasking has to be there. While I do homework I tend to listen to music as a background noise. We might not see it as multitasking since we are just listening but due to the fact that we are doing more than one thing at the same time it applies and distract us. We might listen to music and as our favorite song comes out we might stop and sing or just listen to it. TV is another way to multitask that we don’t realize since it’s something we use it daily, we do homework while we are watching a game or a show which shifts our attention to the TV. Having the computer in front of us tempts us to open more tabs and check our emails, face book, etc. All of this is distracting us and apparently taking time away from getting our work done. It makes us not pay full attention on our work. It is not only within computers that we multitask but also TV and cell phone. Besides having the computer with different tabs we still text our friends while doing homework, we add more work to multitasking. Multitasking can be a distraction which will affect us as an outcome since our attention is divided. Since our time is divided we learn and remember differently. Multitasking is becoming part of ourselves as we integrate it daily for that reason it’s hard to answer how not to multitask?
    It is true; our concentration diminishes during the switch over time, the number of errors increases which are argued in Multitasking Reduces Productivity article. I found interesting when they say that something is always lost when attention is shifted from one direction to the other but we don’t like to admit that we lose something. I find this true because we never see multitasking as something wrong or we don’t see how it affects our attention to the actual work we are trying to complete. Accomplishing more than two things at a time is hard to do them all well. Also, I found interesting that current cognitive model suggests that people have a limited amount of attention available at any moment. It indicates that we cannot pay full attention to all the things we are doing at once.

    • RLDavidson says:

      I completely agree with this response as it addresses a key question we all must ask ourselves; am I losing more than I’m gaining by multitasking? We multitask to save time, to be productive, and to get more things done simultaneously, all with less time. Jklopez points out that multitasking is already integrated into our lives. Our challenge, then, is to seek its’ benefits. According to a study conducted on visual attention spans and multitasking, switching between two or more tasks in a short amount of time led the participant to remember less of each task than if they were to study them separately. This coincides with the above contributor’s estimations on the time we’re really losing when we multitask. So even though the dangers outweigh the benefits, and most people can guess or already know that, then why do we still multitask every day? We are making ourselves lose memory and time in the long run, but there’s still something about the convenience and entertainment that encourages us to distract ourselves.

      Jolicœur, P., & Brisson, B. (2007). A psychological refractory period in access to visual short-term memory and the deployment of visual–spatial attention: multitasking processing deficits revealed by event-related potentials. Brain & Behavior: Physiological Psychology, 44(2), Retrieved from

  19. ngodoy1 says:

    After opening up my e-mail, Facebook, and checking my twitter updates I opened up the blog and began to read; Reading the blog made me feel bad about having all those other tabs open only because I saw in myself engaging in one of the biggest issues of multi-tasking. My generation has grown up almost parallel with technology. We were the first generation to have technology surrounding us at all time. Internet, text messages, phone calls, and navigation tools are easily accessible to us at any time of the day and for the most part anywhere we go. Personally, I own an iPhone which means I can makes phone calls, send text messages, check my twitter, Facebook, or email, all at once if I wanted to; “Multi-tasking done the right way, now you can run your favorite third—party apps—and switch between them instantly—without slowing down the performance of the foreground app or draining the battery unnecessarily, this is a smarter approach to multi-tasking” (Apple) . It bewilders my mind to imagine what someone would have said twenty or thirty years ago if they were told that technology would let us complete all these tasks at once from one little device. This is huge! This is history in the making and we are a definite part of this technology boom, which has occurred, in the last decade or so.
    As many others, I find myself multi-tasking more often than I should. I am constantly on the go and depend on my phone to keep me updated and connected with my friends and events. Another form of technology that I am constantly in use of is my iPod. Music is everything to me, and without a small convenient tool that stores hundreds of my favorite songs I am not sure how I would manage to carry all my favorite songs with me at all times. Technology is life changing because it is so accessible and easier than its alternative. Through the use of technology we are able to achieve and complete things quicker and by doing things quicker it gives us a feeling of accomplishment, which makes us feel good about ourselves.

    Multi-tasking: done the right way. (n.d.). Retrieved from

    • jklopez says:

      I agree with this post, it is interesting to see how we all multitask frequently during the day. This causes us to pay less attention to our work and challenges us to complete it the right way. We can consider this as wasting our time because in reality we are taking time away by checking our emails or face book since we want to be updated about our online communities. I agree by saying that our generation has been part of the technology movement. We are growing with technology around us and with new developments. This helps us feel capable of using all technology around us while doing other work. It facilitates us to multitask and feel good at doing it. It is difficult to focus on all tasks involved in since we have to be concentrated on all. If we try to diminish multitasking probably we can do better at school or at any other thing. As I was reading an article on how to stop multitasking they mentioned that now it is harder to stop with all the great strides in technological advancement. Some of us believe that n y multitasking we will get many things done at once but it is the opposite because it takes more time to complete our tasks. One way to avoid multitasking is to do the most important things first and then the rest. Multitasking is common everywhere especially where there is a computer in front.

  20. amolloy says:

    Like most of the above commenters, I too multi-tasked all the way through reading this article. By the time I was halfway through, I was looking up other articles that were related to it, and constantly checking Facebook, Tumblr, Gizmodo and Aljazeera.

    As Lord Chesterfield said in his 1740s letter to his son, “There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year.” This statement rings especially true today. As humans have developed technologies that increase productivity, they have had to learn how to balance their workload between many different tasks, sometimes switching between completely unrelated ones without missing a beat.

    I know that I am absolutely a member of this culture obsessed with multi-tasking. With me at all times is my iPod and my cell phone, which I use to keep track of the twenty blogs I read, the four social networks I am a member of, and my Google Voice account. I have always known that I was a big multi-tasker, however I have never considered myself a very good one at that. I am a media addict, and sometimes the media spiral (switching from Facebook to Tumblr to Twitter to Gmail to Tumblr to Facebook etc…) can get a hold of me for an hour or so before I realise how long I had been procrastinating for. However, I know that this has definitely allowed me to become a good manager of my hectic lifestyle. I have been overloading every quarter here at Santa Clara, and have averaged about 8-9 classes every quarter without missing a beat. So while there may be a negative side to it, I know that my media multi-tasking obsession isn’t without a positive side.

    • ngodoy1 says:

      Just as surprising as it was for you, I found it eye opening when realizing how much we multi-task on a daily basis. I am constantly online checking emails, facebook posts, twitter updates, or listening to music while trying to complete assignments or catching up on the latest news. As you mentioned I have always considered myself a “multi-tasker” as well, but never thought that keeping myself updated constantly on my online communities had so much of my attention. This blog allowed me to prioritize my priorities and make an effort to avoid wasting my time on the less important “tasks” which I partake in while trying to complete my homework or readings. I must admit that trying to focus on one thing has become a challenge to me; My generation has been a part of a technology movement that has progressed and expanded parallel with our growing of age. With all the new technology we are empowered with the feeling of being able to do a lot of different things at once. What I failed to realize was that when I try to balance many different things at once, I am not giving those tasks my full attention or effort. I have realized that balancing different tasks at once is not a good idea and I must make an effort to minimize the multi-tasking that I am constantly taking part in.

      • jklopez says:

        I agree with this post, it is interesting to see how we all multitask frequently during the day. This causes us to pay less attention to our work and challenges us to complete it the right way. We can consider this as wasting our time because in reality we are taking time away by checking our emails or face book since we want to be updated about our online communities. I agree by saying that our generation has been part of the technology movement. We are growing with technology around us and with new developments. This helps us feel capable of using all technology around us while doing other work. It facilitates us to multitask and feel good at doing it. It is difficult to focus on all tasks involved in since we have to be concentrated on all. If we try to diminish multitasking probably we can do better at school or at any other thing. As I was reading an article on how to stop multitasking they mentioned that now it is harder to stop with all the great strides in technological advancement. Some of us believe that n y multitasking we will get many things done at once but it is the opposite because it takes more time to complete our tasks. One way to avoid it is to do the most important things first and then the rest. Multitasking is common everywhere especially where there is a computer in front.

  21. cbuckley says:

    Sitting on the second floor of the library of what seems to be another one of those Friday afternoons where everyone seems to be getting ready for the weekend, how does everyone associate on where everyone will be tonight or where everyone is going to meet up? Facebook, texting, AIM, phone calls, and Skype can all be used to answer that question, but what I’ve come to notice after reading the article is that when looking up from my seat at the library, the man across the table from me is reading a text, while listening to music, and mid-conversation on Facebook. I looked at him, looked back down and went straight for my phone, finished my conversation on Facebook, and took out my headphones cause I realized I was doing the exact same thing. Prior to reading this article I felt that I had become a very well-rounded multi-tasker but this article surely proved me wrong. The last text I had received was about what my plans were for tonight and apparently everyone had already known about it for a couple of hours and I had been the last to know because of how slow I’ve tried to communicate with others. News travels fast around a university such as ours and especially with our technology these days, news seems to travel instantaneously at a pace that almost no one is able to keep up with.
    In an article from the LA Times from March 2010, the Neilsen Co. had reported that the top website visited in 2009 wasn’t Facebook, rather Google. I know that may not surprise others but it shocked me a little. I would’ve guessed Facebook for the fact that almost everyone in the library checks there “Profile” or “Statuses” at least once while in here. And yes, I’m one of those, too. Everyone has fallen a victim of trying to multi-task too much, and as the article and experts say, science has proven that no one can multi-task well and in the long run it is only going to slow one down.

  22. cwhite1 says:

    I can begin by explaining what news station provided me the drone of technology this morning, but I cannot tell you what content filled the program. I was shocked to hear, in class at 1pm, that Egypt had thrown the president out and the rebels were taking over. I had the news on all morning… as well as my TV in the bedroom, the laptop to emails, and the cell phone on the charger as I answered texts and missed calls. The list of multi-tasking goes on for me as I write, thinking of all the technology I have to use to get this project done, all the technology I have to use to be happy, and all the technology I have to use to get home to use more technology.
    I find the connection between time ideology and multitasking interesting. As a structured society we are derived to squeeze the most out of our time. An example comes in form of our education as we are pushed to read, comprehend, and then produce mass amounts of information through a growing number of mediums. This article broaches the idea of a “new type of multitasking”, one that demands humans of all ages to be in control of minute to minute news, worldly issues, and social divides earlier thought to be of no importance like the concept of how the minorities on the other side of town lived versus how the rich minorities live: never an important social interest, but now technological multitasking allows, if not forces us to care, especially if the middle of town is of personal interests.
    Modern day multitasking demands us to not only complete so many tasks at one time, but increases our need, and derived want, to maintain constant information streams: email, facebook, twitter, etc., etc. And now, as we smash into the “multi-media-tasking” as a new way of life, the reality of what we know, what we are capable of doing, and how addicting information has become is directly related to A determinist way of structural thought and practice. The question of “values” that we “cultivate” are something that holds difficulty to ask an evaluation for while using only technology to communicate.
    An article in the “Harvard Business Review” comments on why and how to stop multitasking. Peter Bregman, writes that “because multitasking is so stressful, single-tasking to meet a tight deadline will actually reduce your stress”. What he is trying to prove is by giving yourself less time to do individual tasks, handled individually, may make an addicted multitasker more productive and relaxed, eliminating the stress factors of too much at once.

  23. SCovell says:

    According to Claudia Wallis’ article, The Multitasking Generation, from Time Magazine, “human beings have always had the capacity to attend to several things at once.” We certainly do have the capacity to do many things at one time. Ever since we were hunter gathers making fires while watching children and cooking food, multitasking has occurred throughout history. Multitasking, whether it is with technology or not, is something everyone does and they do not even realize it. The fact that I multitask at almost all times of the day did not even phase me until I read this blog. I did not even realize how much I actually do at once. I wake up in the morning and listen to music as I get ready for class and decide what I am going to wear. Sometimes I respond to text messages I may have received in the middle of the night as I am doing all of this. As I walk to class, I walk, talk, and text with my friends. If I am not texting while doing these three things I am looking at my phone to see what time it is. Later in the evening when I decide to start my homework, I typically have my email, Facebook, and iTunes up on my computer screen with my cell phone by my side responding to text messages quite frequently. While doing my homework whether it requires a computer or not, all of this is still in front of me. This is not the ideal way to succeed with all of the distractions around me, but it is a part of what I have become accustomed to living in this world of constant communication. We live in a world where communication has become instantaneous and is all around us. We cannot help multitasking with all of the convenient technologies that have been created and specifically made to make multitasking easier for us. For example, a blackberry or iPhone gives us the capability to text message, email, check Facebook, tweet, take pictures, watch videos, read the newspaper, get you from one place to another, and much more. All of these applications can be done quickly and simultaneously. These technologies have been made to fit into the palm of our hand, and I honestly can say I don’t know what I would do without the technological device of my blackberry. It’s the way I communicate with everyone, literally. My blackberry was broken for two days but I could still see that I was receiving text messages, and I almost lost it. It drove me nuts. I have become extremely dependent on this little device that I can perform many tasks on, simultaneously.

  24. KFuelling says:

    I know for a fact that I can agree with at least one point of each individual’s post. We all are guilty of attempting to “multi-task” because that is what we have grown up to understand as normal. Why look at only one page online if you can browse through three or four? It does appear to be more productive, especially if you are looking for something in particular. I sometimes find it difficult to actually relax because I feel the necessity to constantly be doing something, be wired, or moving. The question transitions now from are you guilty of multi-tasking, to what are you going to do about it. Are the individuals who read this, including myself, going to stop checking our phones throughout any task we complete? Are we going to attempt to focus on one Internet tab before flipping through others if we get bored or need a break? Probably not. It is more than likely that this blog and these responses will remain as an acknowledgement of the effects on our generation from growing up so attached to technology. Of course after reading this and actually spending some time researching the effects of “media-multitasking,” I might be more inclined to focus on one task at a time. But, old habits die hard, so probably after awhile, unconsciously, I will begin to utilize more mediums of technology as I try to accomplish one or even 4 tasks simultaneously.
    Personally, the reliance on technology even at our age is scary. Even more so is how children younger and younger are becoming obsessed with its functions and how it can entertain them. It seems like years ago, that children were forced to actually play with each other and themselves, maybe with some simple blocks. An interesting idea, right? Now, if there is a spare moment, the child will be off playing with Dad’s phone or even one of their own gaming devices.
    Of course, technology has allowed us to become extremely social with one another, yet I see it as more of an indirect way of being social. How are we able to chat with people so freely online or through text messages when we can barely finish a conversation in person? If we are the generation that is glued to technology and have grown up believing it is vital to us no matter what we do, leaving us hopeless on our own, I can only fear for what future generations hold. For now, we are left to deal with issues we have involved ourselves with. Truthfully I can say that I was able to concentrate on this one post as well as the blog itself, but without referencing other sites, music, cell phones, or other technology. Now whether or not I can do that for every future task that remains to be seen.

    • Jackie F. says:

      I can definitely say I have the very same concerns that you do in regards to the effects of technology on our generation, as well as future generations to come. I could not agree more with the statement you made claiming, “If we are the generation that is glued to technology and have grown up believing it is vital to us no matter what we do, leaving us hopeless on our own, I can only fear for what future generations hold.” While it is clear that we as college students have grown up surrounded by the need to consume and engage in the next, upcoming technology, I fear that this need will only growing stronger in future generations to come. I have a 10 year old cousin who is familiar with all the apps and games on an iPad, constantly attached to his handheld gameboy, and an expert at browsing through, controlling, and watching the latest up and coming movies on netflix; and he can do these things all at the same time (a multi-tasking expert, if you will.) This ten year gap already reveals the growth of constant use of different technologies.
      I share your fear of the reliance on technology, and can only hope that the necessity to be “constantly wired” elicits positive consequences in the lives of generations to come. I doubt there will be a shift to abandon mediated communication and a move towards face-to-face communication, but my hope is similar to that of Scwartz & Leyden in that perhaps the milenial generation, and the generations that follow will use their constant consumption of technological resources to create positive social change.

  25. cwhite1 says:

    I believe nhughett said it best when evaluating the fact that multitasking is overwhelmingly prevalent in work productivity. The reality of trying to keep pace (even catch up on matters of importance regarding professional tasks) with a multitasking world without being a progressive-technological-determinist-multitasker is far from real. As the millennium generation we are being converged as the multitasking future without opposition or question. I do not know if this conceptualization of generational solidification to multitasking is the correct way to maintain equality among our human equals.
    Reading the blog and the bloggers, I find myself not wanting to check my texts, my social pages, or every other technological gadget I have been structured to procure as social methods of equality. Is this the time to bring up technological utopia and distopia? I would place the skeptical, and thus cynical, self at complete distopia and finding ways to bury myself even deeper.
    I did watch a video about technology and the world today, let me check my facebook to see…. (Video on the progression of information technology, researched by Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod, and Jeff Brenman, remixed By the way, I did not create this video! Search on the names above if you want more info – they are responsible.) It seems, according to this video, that today, 1 in every 10 marriages started on line. This could be why divorce is through the roof, but still a sure sign of the technological world creating a multitasking society dependent upon equality in the task of multitasking to even marry. Darwin’s theory at work in the 21st century. I just hope that I am not going to be dependent upon my multitasking abilities to procreate. There is a chance this could not happen, but the reality of just how dependent we are all becoming upon the technological age and all of its vast potential is happening.
    My phone has gone off multiple times, my social networks are pooping up, and I need to drive somewhere this afternoon. My life is dependent and it is no longer me it is dependent upon.

  26. twomack says:

    According to Matt Ritchell, writer for the Chattanooga Times free press, “Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.” It is almost as if technological multi-tasking has become a drug, and I’d have to say that I agree. Again, as I sat down to write this response, I realized how long it took for me to actually begin to write. While I searched for some evidence backing this idea of a technological addiction, I found myself switching between the tabs open in my browser—sending out a quick email, check my Facebook updates, and then continuing on my actual task. Though I wouldn’t consider myself completely dependant on technology and media, I absolutely agree that both have affected the way I live my life. On one hand, I do not struggle to step away from technology and media for hours at time, but I do find that when I am surrounded by technology that I am much more inclined to utilize it—and not always in the most productive ways.

    It is nearly impossible for a university student to avoid using technology on a day-to-day basis. We are constantly checking our emails to stay updated with work and school, submit assignments online, or research topics that are unclear to us. But when do we reach a breaking point? It has been determined time and time again, that multi-tasking, while being the norm, has become detrimental to our work patterns and ability to complete even simple tasks in a timely manner. How do we, as university students, avoid crossing this fine line between productivity and procrastination via technology and media? While many of my friends decide to de-active their Facebooks while in midterms or finals, I have personally found that doing so only helps me to find other ways to procrastinate online, and therefore believe Facebook is not entirely to blame—but more so the limitless online searching that one can begin with just the opening of an Internet browser.

    Furthermore, Ritchell goes on to explain the affects of technology on the human brain. “ ‘The technology is rewiring our brains,’ said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the world’s leading brain scientists. She and other researchers compare the lure of digital stimulation less to that of drugs and alcohol than to food and sex, which are essential but counterproductive in excess.” So, while technology is fun for individuals to use, it is not essential to life and happiness—until it becomes an addiction as it has for some people. In Ritchell’s article, he describes a man so absorbed by technology and media that he is unable to fully enjoy moments and experiences when he is not connected to technology. The man’s wife goes as far as to claims that he is unable to live in the moment since his addiction to technology was bound.

    I believe that individuals from the millennial generation will suffer from similar conditions and symptoms as the man described in Ritchell’s article because we have become so accustomed to using technologically not only daily, but hourly. Although we may be using technology to be productive, it often serves to be counterproductive simultaneously.

    • Margaret says:

      I think you bring up an interesting point about the fact that if we are surround by the technology we are more inclined to use it. I fully agree with this because it makes sense. Even when we sit down to do homework we have a computer in front of us with an internet connection it seems, as the article states, almost natural for us to open our e-mail and check Facebook. As you brought it up, it has be come the norm to multitask. Would you agree that it is unrealistic for someone to just use their phone for a call, or the internet for email? For us, it would appear yes. Think about our parents, many still use their phones only to call someone. They don’t multitask anything like us. So I guess my real question is at what point did this become the norm for us? I mean you walk around campus and everyone has a phone out, while chatting with their friends and walking to class. Just because we have the access to the technology, should we be using it as such?

      These questions I am asking go hand in hand with your point about the fact that we are so immersed within technology it is hard to step away from it. I too have friends that have others change their Facebook passwords, so they won’t get distracted from their studies. They do find alternative ways to procrastinate, but I have also found they are more willing to take their breaks by talking with other people and having more direct interactions with people. It would appear that once the outlets have been removed, they recognize this, and move back towards ‘natural’ methods of procrastination and multitasking. So while I do agree that it is hard to remove oneself from technology, I would not call it impossible.

  27. DTCarlin says:

    Reading the posts from my classmates leads me to understand how much we all multitask. The fact that most of us do not even think about it while we are doing it makes it much worse. Being that we are not thinking that we are multitasking we cannot judge the extent to which it affects our productivity. I admit that I never really thought that using texting on my cellphone while doing homework was multitasking, however it is and that is something we all have to realize. When we take that five second peek at our phone that some how sidetracks us onto our phone for fifteen or twenty minutes that affects the work we are doing. Still I know it is a hard habit to break but maybe it would be an interesting experiment to place our phones in the next room and turn off the wireless connection while we try and do our work and see how much we can accomplish. Who knows some of us might be more productive others would be less. The pure thought about the what might be going on could be even a greater distraction, but what we have to think of is the long term affect multitasking will have on our learning capacity and ability to retain information.
    Not only does multitasking affect us while we are students but once we enter the work force it will affect us at work. Spending twenty minutes on Facebook while we are supposed to be researching something for our boss might not be tolerated. My father runs his own business and he has had many young interns that he has had to discuss their use of Facebook with. One girl in particular was constantly updating her Facebook status to inform the world what she was doing at my father’s company. She did not think about how that reflected on the company and ultimately when she graduated from college and it was time for her to get a job she was not offered a full time position at the company because they saw her as a liability to the company. Many times when we multitask we do not think of its affects, but from reading this article, the replies from my peers, and supplemental articles about multitasking as well as thinking about my father’s company made me realize what a bad habit multitasking is.

  28. hmekonnen says:

    Multi-tasking to many people is seen as an issue and a lack of focus among many people born from the 90’s to the 2000’s. As a student of the time I find the idea extremely interesting because I do find trouble doing work without focusing on many things at a time. As I try to do this I find myself on Facebook, texting, listening to music, checking my e-mail as well as watching the television. I wonder whether multi-tasking is an issue that carries throughout generations or if it has impacted our generation especially because of technology. I cannot remember the last time I really shut myself out and tried to do one thing at a time, although this would probably make my work get done in a timelier manner, multitasking would be difficult to resist. The issue of multitasking reminds me of a book I read by Larry Rosen, “Rewired.” In the book Rosen seeks to understand the change throughout generations because of technology. Rosen believes that people of the iGeneration are influenced by multitasking than those of other generations. Psychologists study have studied and concluded that multitasking has its drawbacks, for instance slower performance and increased errors. (Rosen, 79)When psychologists performed a study do understand the difference between test scores and the time took to take a test among students who were uni-tasking verses multitasking students, research showed that uni-tasking students took less time to finish the test, but both multitasking and uni-tasking students did equally well on the test. Rosen then addresses that students of the “iGeneration” grow up using technologies and have been multitasking since birth, therefore it has become part of their learning process. Rosen’s main idea in “Rewired” is to address the changes among the generations, especially regarding technology and education. In the case of multitasking Rosen suggests that people of later generation multitask much better than those of earlier generations because they have been engulfed in technology from a much younger age and that is the way they learned to work, whereas those people from older generations have more trouble with multitasking.

  29. emorimoto says:

    In the past few hours I have had more than five windows open at once, to Youtube, my communications class homepage, facebook, and my email. My phone if not in reaching distance from where I am is walking distance, it’s never out of my site. When I do my homework on the computer, I have music playing on iTunes while I keep a conversation with one of my friends and send and receive text messages. I agree completley with this article that people of our generation our “maven multi-taskers.” We can’t sit still for more than a couple of minutes and we always have to be engaged in something. I’m a victim of boredom, I need to be doing something to keep myself busy and for me and several of my friends and peers that is multitasking. Multitasking allows our brains to keep busy by processing all types of news input. Although many people from my generation enjoy this constant stream of information, studies have proven that multi-tasking can lead to insufficiency in our actions and work. This article reminded me of the article we read by Schwartz and Leyden. Schwartz and Leyden believed that our generation should be known as the Millenials. Us Millenials will solve global problems such as global warming and world hunger because we are so assimilated in technology and this article proves it. If you were to ask any person in their early to mid 20’s about how many times they interacted with technology they would say several times a day if not continuous. Multitasking is a form of just how assimilated we “Millenials” are with technology. However, our assimilation with technologies often leave us very dependent on them. When my phone is broken or i can’t access Facebook I feel very lost because my two main means of communication are no longer available to me. Multitasking is good in the way that is allowing us to become more accustomed to technologies that could help us solve global issues. But the negative side is that it can be counter productive and leaves us very dependent on the technologies that we have.

  30. MSReynolds says:

    When I first read this article it not only resonated with me as I looked up at my six different open tabs, changed the song on my ipod, texted a friend and, spent some quality time commenting on newly tagged pictures on facebook but it also brought up another question, is this our faults or is it just a product of our society?
    I have yet to meet a single college student that did not have a cell phone or ipod and you will be hard pressed to find a student without a facebook. But why do we have these things and how come we have become so reliant on them? It is curious to think about how often we are forced to use the internet and other technology simply to complete school work. In every class teachers communicate through email and often it is necessary to upload any completed assignments on camino. We use the online database at the library to do research, we sign up for classes using ecampus. Even news stations are now encouraging us to use twitter and other social networking sites to get our news. I am not claiming that these behaviors are a bad thing just simply pointing out that older generations do not give themselves enough credit for our supposed media-multitasking frenzy. I feel that with encouragement from all angles to use technology, whether from our peers to stay connected, or our school to maintain a passing grade, it is hard, almost impossible, for us to not media multi-task.
    That being said, it is also important to consider the pros and cons of our serial multitasking. In an article called “Cognitive Control in Media-Multitaskers” the authors researched whether media-multitasking impaired our ability to retain information and stay focused on the task at hand. To me, the second question is redundant and obvious, clearly when we do more things we spend less time on one specific thing. However, the second question intrigued me. In the article the authors discovered that, “results showed that heavy media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli and from irrelevant representations in memory. This led to the surprising result that heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability, likely due to reduced ability to filter out interference from the irrelevant task set.” As I considered these findings I began to realize more and more how accurate this statement truly was. While my intentions to surround myself with the basic necessities such as my phone, ipod and facebook are strictly for a quick study break, I often find my quick flip to facebook to see what my new notification is often turns into looking through an entire album or a quick song change on my ipod turns into a new “studying” play-list. The question of quantity vs. quality also came to mind. While yes, as much research has shown, that we may loose some focus on the task at hand we are also able to accomplish many more things at once. Using my media-multitasking ability I am able to write a paragraph, listen to new music, see how my friend is feeling and get an update on the situation in Egypt all in about a thirty minute window. And yes, I only got one paragraph done in the time I could have written two but I was also able to handle a lot of other business and still get some work done. The findings that say our media-multitasking results in lower quality work I find hard to believe. Was it not one of the hardest years ever to get into college in 2009? Pretty much the heart of us chronic media multi-taskers. Is the work and research we do now much more in depth and substantial because we have access to, and the ability to utilize, an enormous more amount of sources and information?
    I would not go as far as to say the media-multitasking does not have some negative side effects, but instead that media-multitasking has its uses and that this behavior is, essentially, a product of society rather then a evolved behavior. Lastly a little food for thought, if our generation’s media-multitasking is as widespread and prevalent as we think, would it be better to stop fighting against media-multitasking and instead look for ways to make it more efficient, allowing us to negate the negative aspects of this potentially beneficial behavior.

  31. etomovic says:

    I believe that the initial article written at the top of the page is very informative and raises the an essential question that not only relates to the current situation our generation is apart of, but also connects to class discussions regarding technology and the dependency that society has fell victim to, and this question being, is the multitasking life the good life? After further reading the article and other research the question became very challenging since this multitasking phenomenon offers a way to get the most out of your day because technology provides an efficient way to get multiple things done. This being said, some people may believe that this is the good life because they base it on experiences, and it often accepted that the more experience and knowledge you have (which is granted through multitasking and technology) can be considered the good life.
    But on the other hand…While researching I found an experiment conducted by Lin, Lee, and Robertson (2011) which examined multitasking and specifically focused on reading comprehension when a television was present. One group of participants were instructed to take a reading comprehension in the presence of a comedy movie and another group was instructed to take the test in front of a news report video. There was also a control group with no distractions. Just like many other studies have shown, the video significantly impacted the results of the participants test scores. The researchers also found out that the news reports was more distracting than the comedy movie. This was a surprise to me since I initially thought that humor would be more conflicting but this just goes to show how much knowledge the typical multitasker lacks. Often times people will believe that they are not influenced by multitasking and they believe that there performance isn’t impacted when the reality of situation is that it does alter performance. Consistently the quality of work is jeopardized because of the lingering desire people are faced with in regards to other forms of technology, either the television, cell phone, Facebook, etc. I believe people become consumed by their electronics and spend the day walking around with their heads down concerned with whatever is happening on their cell phone when really the good life is right in front of them.

  32. robertboscacci says:

    “Multiple Media Use and Multitasking with Media Among High School and College Students,” a University of Pennsylvania study about multiple media use and multitasking with media among high school and college students, defines multiple media use as “combining a medium with another medium, and multitasking [is defined] as combining a medium with a non-media activity.” This is an important distinguishment, because it re-classifies what we called ‘multitasking’ into four distinct categories. Daniel Chandler would be proud that these U-Penn students are following his lead in creating better language for better communication in the digital age. The students argue that one could be taking part in one of four activities: Single media use, multiple media use, multitasking, and multiple media use while multitasking. Multitasking, as defined by these students, requires the user to be engaging in both media and non-media activity; for example, simply having four browser windows open to different pages would not be considered multitasking, but rather just multiple media use. To really be multitasking, one would have to be browsing the internet while attempting to complete calculus homework unrelated to the web content.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Chandler’s suggestion that we adopt a new library of technological lexicon. In fact, we should make a concerted effort to open channels with politicians and educators in order to further the responsible and meaningful use of technological language. Politicians appear to be less and less competent with technology these days, at least as the media portrays them––yet they are the most important part in determining how and where new technologies can and will be used. The University of Pennsylvania study is one step in the right direction.

  33. mkohl says:

    Both sides of the argument seem to agree that the human brain will adapt to the rapid increase in technological multitasking. The question is how will the brain adapt? Will we be a better society because of it? I fear Christine Rosen is closer to the point when she offered that our “culture may gain in information, but it will surely weaken in wisdom.”

    In the Fall 2008 NEA Higher Education Journal Charles Abate gives further support to the idea that multitasking is putting society at a disadvantage. While multitasking may give is the appearance of efficiency, it’s merely an illusion. Abate exposes three major myths of multitasking.


    I doubt that we will ever achieve an enlightened “Zenlike state of focused distraction” that Anderson suggests. Moreover, I see the future of multitasking moving us into a Zombie-like future where we are incapable of unplugging or powering off. The Chandler piece (“What is Technology?”) was right on the mark with the Narcissus metaphor as our mobile devices are quickly becoming an extension of man, helping to distract us into a comfortable complacency.

    • robertboscacci says:

      I fear that you are correct to fear the accuracy of Christine Rosen’s point. While our culture “may gain in information,” I agree that it “will surely weaken in wisdom,” primarily because we spend more time receiving new information than analyzing the information we have got already. Too much information creates a fog in which it is difficult to make rational decisions and take rational action. The capability to “uplug” or “power off” is crucial. Soon, everyone will have access to all the information they could ever want; the key to tomorrow’s information-saturated age will be in the ability to identify what is relevant and accurate, and to be able to further analyze that information with a critical eye. In that same vein, it will be interesting to see how people react to the eschatological myths surrounding December 21st, 2012. Despite the scientific community’s unambiguous consensus that there will be no apocalypse, our modern channels of communication will undoubtedly strike fear into the hearts of many, in some form or another.

      • mkohl says:

        A personal example of this technological “fog” in my life is the vast access and availability to music on the internet. Whether its purchasing songs off the itunes store, or more often downloading from torrent trackers, my constant appetite for new music is never satisfied. I’m afraid that this dis-satisfaction stems from an inability to stop and smell the roses. I’m on a never-ending quest for the latest and greatest tune. But in far too many cases I pass judgment on a new record after one listen, or worse, no listen at all. The inability to give something my full attention causes me to miss treasures that I would otherwise discover upon repeated listenings.

  34. EPiper says:

    In May 2011 ScienceDaily reported on a study conducted by Boston College professors S. Adam Brasel and James Gips. The purpose of the study was to see weather subjects could successfully divide their attention between two devices. The results showed that on average people switched their eyes back and forth 120 times in 27.5 minutes. Many of the participants did not even realize their actions. The ability of people to concentrate on one device was seemingly impossible. This study along with many others like the one done at Stanford University in 2009 are all coming up with the same results, everything distracts media-multitaskers. There also seems to be a major consensus about the effects that media-multitasking has on the brain and it is not a bright future for those people who are in constant connection. Not only are we hurting our brains by extreme multitasking but we are also becoming addicted, affecting our learning abilities and disconnecting from people and reality.

    Reading this article and others made me realize how often I am distracted by my cell phone, Facebook and television, as well as, how much longer it takes me to complete a task while I am trying to stay connected with all the streams of electronic information around me. Like Christine Rosen I see a future of electronic addiction, the incapability to unplug and serious disconnect from the reality of the world.

    • avonmassenhausen says:

      I agree completely with EPiper’s view that media-multitasking can disconnect us from meaningful aspects of our lives. Our brains think differently, with a huge focus placed on instant gratification. This concept of instant gratification is a scary one. The young up-and-coming generation want a great deal more than they are willing to work for. In their minds, if it is not available at their fingertips, it is not worth pursuing.

      As EPiper worries about the future, so do I. Multitasking with various types of technology has truly changed the way we live our daily lives. I feel optimistic that our future generations will learn how to curb our seemingly addictive natures.

  35. THabbas says:

    This article brings focus to a very important question: is it acceptable for “quality” to be risked for “quantity”. Technology has advanced to unpredictable events since the 18th century. I cannot even begin to comprehend how technology has advanced to the level it is at today, nor can I comprehend how it changes on a daily basis. The definition of technology has even changed to involve a much wider scope, as Daniel Chandler pointed out in What is Technology. Because of the rise in technological advancement, especially in the 21st century, people can never escape technology from within mainstream society. It has become apart of their lives to such an extent that “they cannot live without it”. A person cannot wait anymore until they are home to check their email on the computer, or wait till after school to contact a friend about plans for the weekend. Technology has provided people with a way to do all this during any time of the day, no matter what they are doing or where they are, and it is because of this that this article questions whether multitasking is actually a good thing.

    Even though multitasking does have its advantages, these advantages do not outweigh the negative impact multitasking has on people. The biggest advantage of multitasking is that a person can be in-tuned with numerous sources of technology that provide a large amount of information. For example, a person can be using the Internet on his/her computer, while talking on the phone and watching the television at the same time. Each of these three technological sources provide information that is probably not attainable through just one source; however, because this particular person is multitasking, he/she is able to hear and view multiple sources of information at once. The only problem with all of this is that multitasking does not allow a person to fully grasp everything from all sources being used.

    John Naish reports in his August 11th, 2009, article “Is multi-tasking bad for your brain? Experts reveal the hidden perils of juggling too many jobs” that researchers have discovered multitasking does not actually work and negatively impacts the human brain. Naish stated the following in his article: “The human brain doesn’t multi-task like an expert juggler; it switches frantically between tasks like a bad amateur plate-spinner.” If a person cannot mentally grasp doing two or more different things at once, and trying to do so only hinders a person’s capability of full comprehension, it remains unclear to me as to why people, including myself, cannot stop multitasking even though the truth is known.

  36. mhillebrand says:

    After reading the article and browsing through the comments, I have to say that I must agree that multi-tasking is not as efficient as it seems. I have attempted to multi-task, but it never turned out very well. I ended up spending more time remembering where I was at in the reading and what point I was trying to make in my paper. I ended up doing worse in school multi-tasking than I did when I just focused on one thing at a time.
    According to an article from CNN written by Theresa Tamkins on August 25, 2009, “multitasking is going to be problematic for people . . . it does compromise productivity.” We know that multitasking can affect a person at school and at work, but what else is affected by multitasking? According to a USA Today article from December 21, 2011 by Anita Bruzzese, multitasking can also “sap your ability to control other impulses, causing you to be much more prone to losing your temper or cheating on your diet.”
    Therefore, although it would be nice to be able to focus on multiple things at once and get them all done properly, it is not possible for many of us.

  37. mwicker says:

    Technology has greatly changed how I multitask. I cannot even imagine what life would be like any other way. On a daily basis I will sit in my room with my friends while the TV is on, Facebook is on my computer screen, music is playing, videos are being pulled up on YouTube, everyone has their phone and is either playing a game, texting, or looking up new apps. This is all going on and one of us is trying to do our homework. The person trying to do their homework is most likely complaining on how hard it is or how long its taking, but what if their school work was the only thing getting attention?

    I think that this article hits the nail right on the head. We don’t really pay all that much attention to what we are doing because of how much we are doing. It came as no surprise to read that if someone is doing a great amount of multitasking, that his or her goal will not be reached as quickly or done as well ad if there were no distractions. However even if you don’t care about how long the work will take or about the grade you get on the assignment, multitasking has gotten to the point where it is dangerous and even life threatening. Depending on when or how you multitask, you could be putting yourself and others at risk. For example, it is down right nerve racking and scary to see how many people have their phones out while driving. I wish I could say that I’m one of the few who has never done this, but that is not the case. There are a countless amount of people who talk or text on their phones while driving, use their phones as a GPS, or use it to switch the song being played on the car’s speakers. While they’re doing all of this, how much are they really paying attention to the other drivers or pedestrians? In an article on called “This is Your Brain on Multitasking”, Jessica Stillman writes about another way in which multitasking can be life-threatening to others. She talks about a doctor who subscribes a blood thinner a patient, but decides to evaluate whether he needs it or not. The doctor asked a resident to hold the order on the blood thinner, so she took out her phone to do it online. However, “Part way through, she received a text message from a friend about a party. She responded to the text, but forgot to go back and complete the medication order canceling warfarin [the blood thinner]”. As a result the patient got too many doses of the medication to the point where, “His blood became so “thin” that, two days later, blood was spontaneously filling the sac around his heart, squeezing it so it couldn’t pump properly. He needed open-heart surgery to drain the blood and save his life”. While this is example is somewhat unique, it shows the possible harmful effects of multitasking.

    • EPiper says:

      I agree that in today’s society multitasking is essentially required of us in order to complete all our work and continue to stay connected with the world and our peers. It is almost frightening how much we depend on technologies to keep us going at the pace we have come accustomed to. It is amazing how many people have replied with the same comments about their personal multitasking. It really shows how much it is a part of our daily lives. Our priorities have switched from fully and accurately completing our work to completing as many tasks as possible to a much lower standard. Multitasking really has changed the way we go about completing tasks, as well as, many other organizational skills like time management.

      The fact that multitasking has changed multiple aspects of our lives and how we function for the worse is a major problem. I think that most people who have replied to this article agree that if something does not change there could be serious consequences. I believe that it is up to our generation to take a step back, evaluate the issue and find some sort of solution.

  38. iscott says:

    I agree with the article when it says that multitasking isn’t about the quality of work anymore, it is more so about the quantity. It becomes more about how well one can juggle multiple distractions or task rather then how well the work turns out to be. Like many others, I was also multitasking while reading this article. Granted the airport is probably not the best reading environment because of its many distractions, I was also listening to music, and checking my iphone. As a result, it took me much longer to read than anticipated. I had to go back and re-read passages many times because I was either really into the song that was playing or I wanted to answer a text, thus effecting my attention and engagement to the task at hand. By then end of the article I found that, although I had a pretty clear idea of what the arguments were saying, I didn’t fully grasp the key points of the article as a whole. Instead of making a change in order to get the reading done effectively, I made the conscious choice to continue to try to multitask even though it was proving to be ineffective. It becomes quite sad to realize how much technology has become a staple in our society, sometimes keeping us from doing things that are way more important. As a college student I find myself addicted to exploring Facebook, my email, or YouTube even when I know I should spend more of that time finishing the assignment that is due in the next couple of days. The constant need to stay connected to technology plays a big role in how much I procrastinate because of how easy it has become to get off track.
    The link above introduces some simple things one can do in order to eliminate multitasking and become more efficient. However, we have become so attached to our technological devices it becomes extremely hard to give up the very tools we use to provide us comfort and security.

  39. emmakent says:

    I’m quick to admit that my life is dependent on multitasking. And the article was probably addressing me when it referenced those who claim to be great at multitasking. I really do, though, think that I am efficient when it comes to engaging in multiple tasks at the same time. In fact, I would argue that in the environment we work, live, and study, multi-tasking is required of us if we want to excel. The consequence of not multitasking is that we inevitably fall behind by not being able to keep up with the rest of the world as they continue to manage multiple tasks at once. I would have missed a lot more deadlines in high school and project had I not completed them with the help of multitasking. I would be out of the loop about various news stories and events if I didn’t have the convenience and luxury of checking a news website, turning on the TV, or opening up Facebook while simultaneously using my technological devices for other things.

    But this article was a bit of a reality check for me. It is very important to realize that multi-tasking has not always been incorporated into social and academic institutions. It is also important to realize that while we believe multi-tasking helps us to be more efficient and ultimately beneficial, a closer look at what is achieved through multitasking reveals that it is actually quite problematic. In the article “The multi-tasking paradox: perceptions, problems, and strategies,” the scholars have an in-depth discussion about multi-tasking and the way that it effects how we organize and complete tasks. I found the following point to be quite compelling, and also very relevant to my own habits of multitasking: “The nature of work itself has undergone a radical transformation; from the linear time notion that the organizational priority is to accomplish a “finished work” prior to moving on to the next task, to the current idea that “. . . today’s top priority is to immediately address whatever fraction of a vast, malleable range of tasks has become most critical – a just in time, networked work style [sic]” (Freedman, 2007). This point represents a fundamental change in the human perception of work. We work with less diligence and less perseverance simply because we do not give our full efforts to the process and completion of tasks. Instead of being good at tasks, we pride ourselves in being quick at tasks. We macro-organize all of our tasks instead of micro-organizing the steps involved in completing the individual tasks. This is a fundamental problem.

    • EPiper says:

      I agree that in today’s society multitasking is essentially required of us in order to complete all our work and continue to stay connected with the world and our peers. It is almost frightening how much we depend on technologies to keep us going at the pace we have come accustomed to. It is amazing how many people have replied with the same comments about their personal multitasking. It really shows how much it is a part of our daily lives. Our priorities have switched from fully and accurately completing our work to completing as many tasks as possible to a much lower standard. Multitasking really has changed the way we go about completing tasks, as well as, many other organizational skills like time management.

      The fact that multitasking has changed multiple aspects of our lives and how we function for the worse is a major problem. I think that most people who have replied to this article agree that if something does not change there could be serious consequences. I believe that it is up to our generation to take a step back, evaluate the issue and find some sort of solution.

  40. Alana Norton says:

    Technology has made multitasking essential for succeeding in our generation. Keeping up to speed with the latest technologies is deemed as crucial in order to remain in sync with the fast flow of society. I personally lack the skills of properly multitasking and find all available tasks to be more distracting than helpful. I can definitely agree that the more tasks I juggle the less I get accomplished. My attention span is short to begin with but new portable technologies that are easily accessible create a constant distraction no matter what you’re doing. I believe our generation is subjected to more attention problems because of the lack of attention given to routines of society that have developed into normal behavior. College is a relative example of having to master multitasking by keeping up to speed with assignments and social aspects as well as getting through a lecture by retaining all incoming information. “Multi-tasking adversely affects how you learn,” said Russell Poldrack, UCLA associate professor of psychology and co-author of the study. Retaining information properly involves your full attention on a single task in order to ensure an optimal outcome.
    The unfortunate outcome besides overloading our brains with poorly retained information is that technology has inadvertently taken away the sentimentality of individuals. Such things as texting and Facebook have changed the social norm of interaction in our generation and set a false example of how to be genuine.

    • THabbas says:

      I personally disagree that “technology has made multitasking essential for succeeding in our generation”. Instead I feel that the current state of technology and how fast it is developing makes individuals think that they need to multitask. I understand that society moves at a faster pace because of how advanced technology is, and that it is hard to keep up at times because of all the different sources of information made readily available by technology; however, after discovering that multitasking is in fact ineffective and in short, cannot be done, I just do not see a point in continuing to do something that is impossible.

      Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has discovered through research that the brain cannot handle multitasking, as stated in John Naish’s 2009 article “Is multi-tasking bad for your brain? Experts reveal the hidden perils of juggling too many jobs”. Miller is not the only scientist/researcher to discover such findings, as many others have, and it is because of this fact that multitasking should be an action looked down upon.

      With all this said, I have to admit that I multitask frequently throughout the day. Although, after reading this article every time I now start to multitask I stop myself. I feel it is necessary for me to try and dwindle down my habit of multitasking if research and science prove that it cannot be done. If I am not able to fully grasp information when multitasking, then I should not be multitasking.

      • emmakent says:

        Ok, while multitasking may not be “essential,” I think the point being made here is that we are a society who has a strong inclination to use technology, in multiple forms and simultaneously, to accomplish our daily tasks and as individuals, we are convinced this is essential to our successes. While the work certainly could be completed without multi-tasking and without technology, our standards as to the time and efforts that must be exerted in order to finish the work render technology an essential part of the process.
        Alana brings up a very good point that the pace of society is faster as a result of technology which calls for faster work and faster results. It is interesting, but also understandable, that she related this with the increasing number of attention problems seen in society, especially in adolescents. It makes sense that technology and multitasking diminishes attention spans. As I mentioned in my earlier post, the organization and completion of tasks has moved from a linear model of beginning, middle, and end, to a more frantic model where multiple tasks can be in various stages yet worked on simultaneously. This causes less attention and detail to be paid to each individual task. Our society is learning that we don’t need to pay close attention, the technology acts as our memory. We don’t need to focus or to be accurate. The technology makes up for our flaws in its precision.
        Thus, if we are conditioned that it is unnecessary to pay attention in our encounters with technology, we are consequently learning to adapt this attitude to the rest of out lives. We don’t pay attention in our encounters with other people, or in our observations of our surroundings. And the fact that we aren’t paying attention means we are losing our capacity for knowledge and innovation. I think this all ties in nicely to Rosen’s point mentioned earlier that while technology allows us to gain info, we are ultimately weakened in wisdom.

  41. avonmassenhausen says:

    As a product of the current generation, my life has been significantly impacted by technology and the repercussions that come with it. I cannot imagine how different my life would be without such technological tools as the television, computer and smart phone. As much as I claim otherwise, I am truly dependent on such devices to fulfill my informational and communication needs. While I was raised by old-school parents who had a very tough time incorporating new technologies into their lives, I took to them very easily. There is no doubt that the technological innovations I grew up with have affected the way I handle everyday situations. The subject of multi-tasking is one of them. I do not claim to be a successful multi-tasker by any means. I have difficulty putting bread in the toaster and trying to accomplish another task at the same time. While I may not be a great multi-tasker, I feel like my approach to such situations is much more developed than those who were not raised in such a technological time as I was.

    There have been extensive studies addressing the fact that our brains operate the same, but task switching has been incorporated into our way of life. As an example, D.E. Meyer points to the jet aircraft pilot, who “must perform several distinct tasks such as altering the trajectory of an aircraft, monitoring the aircraft’s radar panel and gauges, operating communications equipment, and so forth.” While there is obviously no difference in the brains of those who were and weren’t raised in the technological age, the approach to completing such tasks as flying a plane have become necessary in our current world.

    With the benefits of our new thought process come certain disadvantages. Interpersonal communication is distorted by various types of technology. It will be our generation’s job to solve the problems we have created.

  42. Sabrina Brutocao says:

    I agree with avonmassenhausen about the dependent relationship our generation has with technology. Our generation has become accustomed to having machines do our work for us. The more dependent we have come on such technological advances the more naive we have grown to what life was like without technology. Many areas of our lives such as interpersonal relationships are greatly affected by technology.

    Some may view the advances in technology as positive while others may argue that they are debilitating for society. With the introduction of cell phones, the need for physical presence in a conversation was no longer necessary. This allows for constant communication, but also remains one of the largest distractions when in the presence of another. I am insulted when the person whom I am sharing personal information is texting or sending emails while in my presence. Society is concerned with keeping up with the fast past lifestyle we have made for ourselves so being present in a conversation is no longer valued.

    Our generation will not solve this problem, the next generation will simply not know any different. They will spend a lot of time keeping up with technological innovation and as a result they will pass up opportunities to strengthen existing relationships. How long before society settles for virtual relationships? Will there come a time when we find such relationships satisfying?

    • mwicker says:

      I agree with both avonmassenhausen and Sabrina. The degree to which our generation needs technology in our everyday life is getting quite out of hand. For example, over our break I went to a friends house that had no lighting, running water or heat. The six of us that stayed in the cabin could barely last 24 hours without using some form of technology. Although it was a struggle, most of us lasted the day/night with no technology other than our cell phones, and when we got back home the first thing we went to was some form of technology such as our laptops so that we could check what statuses or pictures were put up within the last 12 or so hours.

      I also feel similar to Sabrina in regards to how it is insulting when I am trying to have a conversation with someone in person, and they keep pulling out their cellphone to text or play a move in Words With Friends. When something like this happens to me the person to whom I’m talking will look up after finishing whatever it is they’re doing with their phone and say, “Wait what? Could you repeat that?” This shows that we can not multitask as well as we think we can. I also agree with avonmassenhausen’s comment, “Interpersonal communication is distorted by various types of technology”. It is very rare, at least from my personal experience, to see a group of people having an in depth conversation about something without taking out some form of technology. One personal example is when I went out to eat with my family after church and a couple sitting next to us were sitting at the same table. The couple both had our there own laptops, and did not exchange a single word while I was there. What are some of the ways in which we can solve this problem? Or is it one that will and has already spiraled out of our control?

      • mhillebrand says:

        As a society, I feel like we are already failing at media multi-tasking. Like others before me have pointed out, it is highly annoying when one is trying to have a face-to-face conversation with one person when they whip out their cell phone and begin to talk to someone else. It is even more annoying when the person texting says “Uh huh I’m listening . . . wait, what were you saying?” There is research to explain this. According to an article from the BBC published on August 20, 2010 titled “Is multi-tasking a myth?” answering an email while chatting on the phone uses the same bits of brain, creating an information bottleneck. If the tasks are sufficiently different, we can complete these tasks, usually very well (i.e. driving and talking with a friend in the front seat). If society is like this now, I worry about what it will be like in ten years.

  43. etomovic says:

    After reading what my fellow peers have posted, numerous pivotal questions arose regarding the future of our generation in the realm of multitasking. The most important one being essentially does it serve more good than bad? The input provided in the thread above supported both sides but seemed to lean towards the idea that it is inevitable for our generation to put an end to this idea of multitasking. Essentially everybody including myself are consistently guilty as charged when it comes to multitasking, and not only multitasking when its convenient, but I believe people also multitask when it is not even appropriate. For examples, I find students consistently multitasking in class from the common texting in class, to the browsing of Facebook and checking email, to the extreme of listening to music in class. As long as people have the discipline to control these tendencies that have become habits and essentially a way of life for many people then I believe multitasking is of course an upgrade to society. Continuing on the idea of multitasking during inappropriate times, driving and texting has become such a common occurrence that California has set up laws against it along with the previous law which is still existent, of not being able to use a cell phone while driving. Clearly multitasking is imperative in our current society, but I believe if it important not to forget the negative aspect it has and people often become too comfortable with their ability and may not be aware of the consequences. As long as people have control and do not overestimate their ability, I believe multitasking will result in a more productive lifestyle.

  44. Alana Norton says:

    In regards to the response above, I also agree that multitasking is inevitable within our society because it’s not only technologically based, but headed further in the same direction. Multitasking therefore becomes a social norm and is almost required in order to properly keep up with the flow of society. The larger issue, which is also listed above, renders concern for those who abuse the realm of multitasking and put themselves and others in danger for example when texting and driving. Since multitasking is imperative to society, I believe it serves more good than bad by making society more efficient.
    On the other hand, the amount of attention given to tasks when multitasking is usually forced to spread out, while resulting in poor application and lack of focus. This sometimes detracts from the quality of ones work, and leads to negative aspects such as stress and frustration. Klaus Manhart, author of Scientific American Mind, claims a recent study of employees by the Families and Work Institute in New York City finds that some 45 percent of U.S. workers believe they are asked or expected to work on too many tasks at once. This reiterates the pressure of society to conform to higher levels of productivity by mastering multiple tasks at once. The fact of the matter remains, however, that with these standards, human productivity may instead falter.

  45. Sabrina Brutocao says:

    Multi-tasking is the execution of more than one program or task, simultaneously. With the emergence of PDAs and smart phones, today’s society has become infatuated with this multi-tasking concept. iPhones and Blackberry’s enable users to send emails, check stock prices, and bank online, among thousands of other functions. Businesses like apple tout the ability of such devices to increase user efficiency. But how much do consumers really benefit? Are we really more efficient, as advertisers claim? Or, do such devices provide more of a distraction than anything else?
    The article “ Media Multi-tasking and the Good Life” discusses the logistics of multi-tasking and human functioning. Due to PDA, smart phones and other electronics we aren’t really present, in conversations and daily tasks bring awareness to the logistics of performing more than one task at a time. Kendra describes the irony of the definition when she argues that society
    In the 2010 report from a research seminar, “The Impacts of Media Multitasking on Children’s Learning and Development,“ Claudia Wallis supports the ideas present in the previous article. She discusses a study that was done by Lori Bergen in which she demonstrated that people retain less information from a CNN broadcast that includes a news crawl at the bottom of the screen than from one that doesn’t.
    In general, our society has grown incapable of being present: both in our interpersonal relationships and in our daily tasks. We are constantly evaluating if what we’re doing is as important as other things on our minds. In conversations and working on tasks alike, we often think of other things we have to do. This tendency inhibits our ability to focus and accomplish anything in an efficient manner. But the bigger issue that this trend presents is that we aren’t truly extracting any valuable knowledge. As evidenced in the CNN example, we see how people aren’t taking away as much information from the broadcast when presented with additional information to process at the bottom of the screen. Personally, I have observed a similar truth in conversations with friends. When I am responding to a text on my phone while attempting to listen to a friends concern, I find that at the end of the conversation I haven’t fully understood what he/she communicated to me. Unfortunately, despite society’s recognition of this reality, we still operate under the misconception that multi-tasking helps us to get more done in one setting than simply focusing on one thing at a time. (also posted under the Technological Citizen article)

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