Are you good at multitasking? I’ve been a scatter brain my whole life, so for me, sometimes it’s hard to concentrate on one thing, much less a bunch, but I always strive to get better at it. I’m usually the girl who does a face plant on the concrete when trying to tweet on my iPhone while walking down the sidewalk at the same time. Maybe in some situations it’s better to do just one thing at a time.
This morning I started thinking about social media and how different our daily lives are now than they were a few years ago. If you are like me, you are constantly checking Twitter (tweets and DMs), emails, Facebook, etc… throughout the day.
Most people, including me, who are very active in social media have had to sharpen their multitasking skills to keep up with it all. What are the effects of that behavior? How does all that multitasking affect our brain, our creativity and our productivity? Is it really true that the more we can do at the same time, the better we are performing? As it turns out, based on a number of studies, it is possible that multitasking our lives away each day may be causing more harm than good.
According to this Hewlett-Packard study, “Workers distracted by email and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers.” And, according to this now famous study on cognitive thinking, multitasking has a detrimental effect on our memory. This definitely explains my CRS (Can’t Remember Shit) problem, which I’ve had for a while. A study at the University of Utah claims that using a cell phone while driving delays a driver’s reaction time as much as if he or she had a blood alcohol level of .08%.
In this New York Times article called Attached to Technology and Paying a Price, a neuroscientist from the University of California, San Francisco said, “The nonstop interactivity is one of the most significant shifts ever in the human environment. We are exposing our brains to an environment and asking them to do things we weren’t necessarily evolved to do. We know there are consequences.”
So if multitasking is so bad, why are we all trying to learn how to do it more? Why are employers praising employees for being able to handle so many tasks at once? According to this article on Wired Science, part of the reason we try to handle so much at once is because there is a lot of social pressure to multitask. We get tweets, emails, IMs, DMs, phone calls, all from different people at once.
The Encyclopedia Britannica Blog says that by being a great multitasker, we are sacrificing our creativity, engagement and productivity, “Skimming, multitasking and speed all have a place in the 21st century life. But we can’t let go of deep focus, problem-solving and connection – the building blocks to wisdom and intimacy.”
The American Education Group predicts that this will become even more of an issue as time goes on since students these days are constantly plugged in and multitasking. It makes them feel buzzed and alert. However, it also affects their ability to learn, concentrate, reason and grasp concepts in a negative way. And, last but not least, this article on TuttoPersona claims that multitasking is one of the biggest energy zappers out there. What do you think about it all? Do you multitask? Have you noticed any side effects of that behavior? This infographic, by VizWorld, is a great illustration of what multitasking does to our brains.
Header Image Credit: [Noisy Coworkers]