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The Epidemic of Digital Distraction

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the what-were-you-saying? dept.

The Internet 159

asto21 writes "Almost no one does just one thing anymore. The screens won't let us. And in an incredible burst of human evolution, our minds have grown accustomed to monitoring multiple inputs at once. Yeah, you're reading this post. But we're nearly three paragraphs in. So if you're anything like me, it's about that time to check Twitter, count the additions to your Google Plus circles, read a handful of new incoming email messages, and chime in on a couple of ongoing instant message conversations. But are we paying less attention to important details?"

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To your article, yes.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975042)

.. but not when I am doing something that is actually important.

Re:To your article, yes.. (1)

JMJimmy (2036122) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975418)

This article is crap. The human mind is typically able to manage 7 pieces of information at once. The difference now is that we're given more than 7 pieces of information to pay attention to at once, so the mind prioritizes what information is most important to it and that's when details are dropped.

just a sec (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975048)

.........i'm reading something else right now
 

Important details? Where? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975060)

I saw none in that article.

Re:Important details? Where? (1)

myurr (468709) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975894)

Beyond that how can this be the product of evolution, rather than the brain itself simply adapting? We're at best fifteen years into the information age. Where is the natural selection, survival of the fittest, and all that? There isn't any. The brain has always been able to cope with multiple streams of information, we're just exercising it more and more in this arena.

Interesting... (2)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975080)

I think the author was trying to show us that we could follow multiple storylines, ie multiple inputs, but I got confused very quickly. I guess I'm just not fully "evolved" yet to process multiple inputs.

Re:Interesting... (2)

ifrag (984323) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975346)

Your mistake, of course, was not tweeting and checking Facebook after every paragraph. This way you can forget about whatever point he was failing to make as you progress through the post in small pieces that don't fit together.

Re:Interesting... (1)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975454)

tl;dr:

if you want to tell people something boring; put it in a video add some explosions and other movie effects.

(I worked this out by starting reading the paragraphs in the article in reverse order - that seems about the best way this time round)

This was possibly the most painful post selecting my slashdot nick has inflicted on my so far.

yes (1)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975088)

But are we paying less attention to important details?" Yes, i was working before hiting TFA. serious business.

What utter nonsense (3, Insightful)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975092)

Almost no one does just one thing anymore. The screens won't let us.

The screens won't let us?

Yes they will. Seriously! Just close all the windows you have open to things that distract you. The screens won't open them back up! I promise!

Re:What utter nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975260)

The author appears to be trying to blame technology for his bad parenting. Forgetting your child's name? Your kid wants his ipad to take him to school? WTF?!

Re:What utter nonsense (1)

Cogita (1119237) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975338)

Almost no one does just one thing anymore. The screens won't let us.

The screens won't let us?

Yes they will. Seriously! Just close all the windows you have open to things that distract you. The screens won't open them back up! I promise!

You obviously haven't run into rotating popup adds. Close one and two more open. ;-)

Re:What utter nonsense (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | more than 3 years ago | (#36976096)

It's a genuine modern-day hydra, you mean?

Re:What utter nonsense (1)

Scarred Intellect (1648867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975352)

Almost no one does just one thing anymore. The screens won't let us.

The screens won't let us?

Yes they will. Seriously! Just close all the windows you have open to things that distract you. The screens won't open them back up! I promise!

Actually, I close iTunes and the screens open it back up 3 or 4 more times...

It must be the screens!

Re:What utter nonsense (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | more than 3 years ago | (#36976134)

I remember being on a tight deadline and getting frustrated at how often I was checking the clock. I had to put a post-it over the system clock, and another over the one embedded inside the word processor. That did the trick, though. (... he says, intermittently, between bites of lunch and checking email.)

Original concept (3, Informative)

AAWood (918613) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975094)

Quick, someone make a reply claiming they don't suffer from this type of thing, but then pretending to get distracted by something else part way through typing it! It will be hilarious, and not at all obvious!

(I wonder how long until someone replies point out that my post is also a rather unoriginal thing to say...)

Re:Original concept (1)

dragon-file (2241656) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975186)

I was gonna say something about your post being "rather unoriginal"... but i got distracted.

Re:Original concept (2)

somaTh (1154199) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975214)

Wow, a joke about meta jokes followed by noting people critique jokes about meta jokes. It's turtles all the way down!

Re:Original concept (1)

AAWood (918613) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975520)

Intentional, I assure you ;)

Re:Original concept (1)

somaTh (1154199) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975646)

I know, I was trolling for someone to call me out on meta-analyzing your meta-analysis. I like recursion.

Re:Original concept (1)

AAWood (918613) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975840)

Dammit, feel bad for ruining that now!

Re:Original concept (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975902)

Intentional Turtles is a great band name.

Re:Original concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975216)

Quick, someone make a reply claiming they don't suffer from this type of thing, but then pretending to get distracted by something else part way through typing it! It will be hilarious, and not at all obvious!

Okay, I don't suffer from this type of thing. See, the folks here at work are rather draconian with the net connection, so I've got to hurry up before lunch ends anNO CARRIER

Re:Original concept (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975276)

I don't have time for this.

TRYING TO CONCENTRATE HERE! (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975284)

Can we please keep the pointless posts to a minimum?

Re:Original concept (3, Funny)

kungfugleek (1314949) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975700)

SQUIRREL!

Re:Original concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975704)

Fie! I'm never distracted from anything, ever. Focusing on only one thing --ooh shiny! (ask and ye shall receive)

Re:Original concept (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#36976002)

Yo dawg, I heard you like meta jokes, so I put a meta joke in your meta joke so you can laugh while you laugh.

I hereby name this breakthrough in human evolution (1)

ivandavidoff (969036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975096)

"Multitasking".

Re:I hereby name this breakthrough in human evolut (2)

toastar (573882) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975298)

I prefer ADHD

Re:I hereby name this breakthrough in human evolut (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975608)

So do the pharmaceutical companies!

Re:I hereby name this breakthrough in human evolut (1)

ivandavidoff (969036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975610)

Multitasking is controlled ADHD.

Singletasking, as in the dogged focus on one damn thing at a time, can be as big a problem as out-of-control ADHD.

Re:I hereby name this breakthrough in human evolut (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975774)

I have a patent pending on "Multitasking", i.e. the process by which humans perform two or more operations (tasks) at the same time.

I'm also copyrighting the term "Multitasking" for referring to the aforementioned activity.

Consider this your official Cease and Desist notice.

Re:I hereby name this breakthrough in human evolut (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975948)

Except that multitasking usually results in taking longer to accomplish anything, with the added problem that if you're in any kind of field that requires you to "get in the zone", you are less likely to "get in the zone" when you have multiple distractions.

I should be coding right now.

I would have been first post (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975120)

But I was too busy posting cute cat pictures on FaceBook and--omg check the latest Justin Bieber tweet! Crap, did I just post that online?

Re:I would have been first post (1)

Anomalyst (742352) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975670)

Crap, did I just post that online?

Yes, and don't call me Crap!

Re:I would have been first post (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36976158)

Hi, it's me, Justin Bieber. You know what, I'm sooo tired of all these Justin Bieber jokes. You guys only invent them because you envy my life and the money I have. C'mon, let's face it, the reality is this: You are all wankers and losers. If I wank, I do it because I want to do it. If you jerk off in your mom's bedroom, you do it because nobody likes you, because you have no money and aren't famous and let's face it: Girls just LOVE guys that are famous and have money. I can get into any disco they won't let you into, even if you're much better looking than me. You know why? Because I AM Justin Bieber and you are NOBODY. Fucking losers, you have no fucking idea how hard showbiz is. Why I surf Slashdot, you ask me? Well, 'cos I have the SPARE TIME to enter my OWN name into Google whenever I like it. I check all of those stupid looser sites with lame Justin Bieber jokes daily, and you know why? You know why? Because I CAN. OTHER people write the songs for me, OTHER people do the work for me. I only have smile into the camera and I have all the time and money and girls I like and can do whatever I want, like, surfing on Slashdot for stupid jokes with my name in it, whereas YOU have to work your ass off because you are pathetic losers! See, that's the difference between successful people like me and you, the average "Justin Bieber joke" internet guy nobody knows or cares about!

Yours sincerely,

Justin Bieber

Yes, we are paying less attention (5, Informative)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975132)

We used to call this condition, having our attention hopping from one thing to another to another in quick succession, "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off". You deal with a lot of things, but you don't have time to really pay attention to any one of them because your attention needs to hop to the next. You waste time shifting mental gears, and more time picking up your train of thought for this item. In computer science we call it "thrashing", and it's something to be avoided because the overhead of context-switching eats up cycles that could be used for actual work. In extreme cases it gets so bad the system's doing nothing but thrash, no actual work gets done because all the cycles are eaten up by swapping and context switching. Humans are vulnerable to the same thing.

That's why geeks value being "in the zone" so much. It's nothing mysterious, it's just the condition of being able to focus on one specific thing without interruption, and it makes you so much more productive (hence why geeks seek it out).

Re:Yes, we are paying less attention (1)

Sinthet (2081954) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975158)

And so consume tons and tons of caffeine xD.

Re:Yes, we are paying less attention (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975224)

Nope, caffeine makes it worse. Alcohol on the other hand...

Re:Yes, we are paying less attention (1)

w_dragon (1802458) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975448)

Alcohol only works in sepcific concentrations [xkcd.com]

Re:Yes, we are paying less attention (2)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975632)

I can tell you exceeded those sepcific concentrations.

Re: (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975916)

Yes, distractions are everywhere these days. What I wonder is, will the new generation see this as "normal" background distraction? We have an entire generation now that don't remember a time before cell phones and the WWW. Presumably they are comfortable with this level of distraction, but does anyone have data on how this affects job performance?

Re:Yes, we are paying less attention (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 3 years ago | (#36976140)

That's why I hate telephones so much. Invariably, just as I'm getting "in the zone" my phone rings, and I end up dropping the problem upon which I'm finally starting to make some progress to work on someone else's problem.

Double standard? (1)

Marc Madness (2205586) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975178)

When children do this, pharmaceuticals encourage us to pump them full of medication. When adults do it, it's art (or possibly evolution).

Re:Double standard? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975572)

Why yes it is evolution. If the drugs don't kill off the kids, the adults are better and stronger, and will breed new kids who can multi-task even when dosed with large amounts of drugs. We are solving the problem of drunk driving one generation at a time. In a hundred years a person could be drunk to the point of death but have enough mental facility to drive a car safely.

Human multitasking is a myth (5, Informative)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975182)

"People can't multitask very well, and when people say they can, they're deluding themselves," said neuroscientist Earl Miller. And, he said, "The brain is very good at deluding itself."

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95256794 [npr.org]

Re:Human multitasking is a myth (1)

auric_dude (610172) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975322)

Susan Adele Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield, CBE - say much the same in her last few books http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Greenfield,_Baroness_Greenfield [wikipedia.org] . She too has worries about flitting about between topics and subjects may mold your brain in unexpexted directions.

Re:Human multitasking is a myth (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975324)

"People can't multitask very well, and when people say they can, they're deluding themselves," said neuroscientist Earl Miller. And, he said, "The brain is very good at deluding itself."

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95256794 [npr.org]

spare me... Its like saying "people can't run very well" or "people aren't very tall". There's a nice bell curve and both jobs and personal satisfaction naturally select following the Peter Principle. The village idiot maxes out his Peter Principle at doing about one thing at a time. The short order cook from the article apparently maxes out around two dozen or whatever. Everyone else bell curves in the middle.

Re:Human multitasking is a myth (1)

Colven (515018) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975472)

The village idiot maxes out his Peter Principle at doing about one thing at a time. The short order cook from the article apparently maxes out around two dozen or whatever. Everyone else bell curves in the middle.

All right! I made it up to village idiot! ... seriously, though... I want to a see a study done on a test course with a wide range of drivers that makes them do various other things while they drive, see just how good people can be at multitasking while some critical task is supposed to be getting done.

Re:Human multitasking is a myth (1, Insightful)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975478)

Shhh, don't remind people about the bell curve, it might hurt their self esteem to remember that they aren't all super genius wunderkind. Not to mention it's bad for the politics of equality as an end to be achieved.

Re:Human multitasking is a myth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975518)

people can't multi-task very well. True multi-tasking is something almost all humans lack the ability to handle unless they are a select few which definitly puts them outside the curve. quickly jumping from one task to the next is not multi tasking, that is still very linear, even though the time between tasks may be only fractions of a second or whatever your measurement.

Re:Human multitasking is a myth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975708)

Spare me. Good and bad are entirely relative. There can be a bell curve and everyone can still be bad at it. Some are just worse than others. So just because there is a bell curve, does NOT mean that anyone is actually good at it. Compared to monotasking :), multitasking wastes time, no matter how good you are at. It may be necessary sometimes but it is still a time waster.

Re:Human multitasking is a myth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975326)

Mod this man up. Our brains suck at multitasking. Period. This has been shown to be the case in multiple studies over the last decade. You are not nearly as good at it as your brain would like to have you believe. Your brain lies to you pretty much constantly, this is no different.

Re:Human multitasking is a myth (1)

smelch (1988698) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975388)

Sure, I'd like to believe you but I'm pretty sure most of these thoughts came from a brain.

Re:Human multitasking is a myth (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975506)

... actually - we are extremely good at multitasking! In fact, my heart is beating at the same time I'm breathing, thankfully. Not to mention all of the disease my body is fighting right now. Don't even get me started about my hormonal systems.

Although we may not be great at being conscious of many things at once.

An analogy would be a micro-controller/FPGA with many peripherals, but one CPU core.

Re:Human multitasking is a myth (1)

Aidtopia (667351) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975868)

"People can't multitask very well, and when people say they can, they're deluding themselves," said neuroscientist Earl Miller. And, he said, "The brain is very good at deluding itself."

My brain is so good at deluding itself that it can delude itself while I do three other things at the same time.

Re:Human multitasking is a myth (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975986)

Dr Miller apparently never did any serious cooking. Are you aware how much task-switching and parallel monitoring is involved in preparing a multi-course meal alone for a couple of guys? No delusions involved, as you would taste the results of someone only believing he can handle the parallel task load...

Re:Human multitasking is a myth (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 3 years ago | (#36976154)

And, he said, "The brain is very good at deluding itself."

But not while it's busy doing something else.

Small Blessings (2)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975196)

'So if you're anything like me, ...'

Thank Vishnu I'm not.

Wait a minute! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975202)

You mean to tell me people actually use Google+?

Wow. What crap. (3, Insightful)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975218)

I have three friends who are accomplished novelists. Two of them have cut off all Internet access to their homes. The other leaves his devices behind and sits in an unconnected cafe with a pen and a stack of paper for several hours a day. They know that even their impressive abilities to concentrate can't compete with a connected computer.

This guy comes up with a preposterous thesis and declares anyone who doesn't fit in with his world view is a loser. "If you're not trying to do 5 different digital things at a time, it's because you've given up, not because you actually want to concentrate on a single task."

He also ignores all the evidence that we aren't as good at multitasking as we thing we are.

Re:Wow. What crap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975268)

Did you read the same thing as me? It came off as anti-multitasking, not pro.

Re:Wow. What crap. (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975456)

The article may be anti-multitasking, but there is a definite streak of resignation.

"Almost no one does just one thing anymore. The screens won't let us."

His friends "can't compete with a connected computer," no one can avoid multitasking, " the screens won't let us."

You show you're anti-multitasking by not multitasking, not by multitasking but complaining about it.

Re:Wow. What crap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975310)

You've completely misread the post in every possible way. Those authors are not being criticized at all. The multitasking nature of our lives is obviously being criticized in the article.

Sometimes it gets that desperate. (2)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975460)

I have three friends who are accomplished novelists. Two of them have cut off all Internet access to their homes. The other leaves his devices behind and sits in an unconnected cafe with a pen and a stack of paper for several hours a day.

Years ago, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle had taken an advance on a book, and were getting very close to deadline with not much written. So they went off to an isolated cabin to write. They each wrote for half the day, taking turns; one sleeping during the day. The resulting book was reasonably good, and finished on time.

I would have posted the frist psot! (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975226)

But I accidentally typed the response as a tweet to my Azharbaijani circle of friends and posted the goat pron link meant for the Azhars in my FB wall.

re:The Epidemic of Digital Distraction (1)

Sarius64 (880298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975248)

I barely believe any of you exist. Why would I care what you post?

I'm a serial multi-tasker (1)

AxoltAl (1155115) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975258)

What I CAN do is do one task then jump to another task while I wait for review/inputs for task 1, and so on, and fit trips to slashdot and reading email and websurfing in the gaps too. All done one at a time, with my full attention on that task at that time.

Re:I'm a serial multi-tasker (1)

smelch (1988698) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975762)

Right, it depends on what the definition of multitasking is. When I think multitask I think single core processor. My focus is the processor and it can only really do one thing at a time, but I can do things that don't require thought along side things that do require thought, like holding a conversation while stirring soup (or sending audio data to the soundcard to play while the processor handles input). The focus can switch from one thing to another in such a way that you aren't slowing the original task by performing the other because you would otherwise just be waiting, like a thread blocking while it waits on a response from the network. In reality you can call thread.Sleep(timeout) and allow the processor to do other tasks, checking periodically to see if the original task is ready to be continued when the timeout expires.

With this interpretation, being good at multitasking means you are good at organizing your operations so you can minimize the time you are blocking needlessly, and good at estimating the timeout value to check back on other tasks, and prioritizing the tasks so the most important ones are completed in a timely manner, and knowing when the time to switch from one task to another will not exceed the amount of time you would be wasting while waiting for the first task to complete. It does not mean that you are good at dictating a letter while you write a blog post simultaneously.

It may not be a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975274)

A lot of things don't require much mental effort. We can just skim over the top and do an OK job of dealing with them.

Our brain has two main circuits. One circuit scans the sensory inputs to warn us if we are in danger; the point of that circuit is that it doesn't focus on just one thing.

The other circuit is for focused attention. That is the circuit we use to sneak up on prey, throw a spear etc.

The brain is built for multitasking. The problem is that we can't do two things that require focused attention at the same time. Trying to do that will result in degraded performance.

Interrupt overhead... (1)

Freddybear (1805256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975286)

Multitasking is fine, as long as none of the tasks really requires 100% of your attention.
I can switch off surfing blogs and /. and listening to music and playing roguelikes, but when I'm working on a tough bit of program logic, I can't stand to be interrupted for anything. That's when I hide all the other windows so I can concentrate.

Research? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975304)

"And in an incredible burst of human evolution, our minds have grown accustomed to monitoring multiple inputs at once."

I don't recall seeing any actual research indicating ANYTHING like this. This is nothing more than some writer's passing thought.

no science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975328)

I could not find any scientific information in the article or any reason to use the word evolution. The article is long and boring and I did get distracted so feel free to point me to the info please.

tripe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975362)

"The screens won't let us."

no. when im on slashdot i read slashdot. then i would check twitter. then back to slashdot. its not "at once" because my focus changes. if all these separate "streams" were to somehow "merge" into one giant st(r)eaming pile of social media shit

facebookslashdottwittergmailemaillinkedinmyspacefriendster

which, incidentally, cannot even be written "at once", well, the brain would probably implode.

which is funnier (5, Insightful)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975392)

But we're nearly three paragraphs in.

I'm not sure which is funnier -- that the sentence was left in the /. summary, or that it appears in the fourth paragraph of TFA.

Re:which is funnier (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975564)

I guess he must have gotten distracted while editing. Reminds me of when I used to sign my posts here:

-Steve

but every once in a while (read: a few times a week), I would be about done, sign the post...then realize I want to add something at the end... add it, but now my original was scrolled out of the visible text box... so I would sign it and end up posting like this:

-Steve
-Steve

Wish I could mod Slashdot stories themselves (5, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975394)

This one deserves "-1, self-delusional" if anything does.

People haven't evolved to efficiently handle multiple inputs at once. The linked story certainly makes that statement, but provides absolutely no supporting evidence. If anything, it demonstrates the opposite with lines such as this: "It's getting harder to concentrate on anything, even the stuff that's clearly the most important." The poorly-written anecdotes don't show the author or his friends dealing well with all these inputs - they demonstrate the difficulty all parties are having coping. Another example is the part about his novelist friends who've removed all internet access from their homes because otherwise they can't concentrate on their work.

Frankly, most of the article reads like - at best - a Readers' Digest submission. But it is Gizmodo, so there you go.

Re:Wish I could mod Slashdot stories themselves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975648)

Frankly, most of the article reads like - at best - a Readers' Digest submission. But it is Gizmodo, so there you go.

Hey, no need to insult Readers' Digest like that!

I prefer to focus (3, Insightful)

MpVpRb (1423381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975422)

When I need to do something important, I focus. No distractions, just pay attention.

Now, when goofing off, it's OK to multitask, but not when it's important to get it right.

It may just be a young people's problem. Us old farts know that if you want to do something right, you need to pay attention.

Re:I prefer to focus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975910)

Agree, I can't believe the lack of attention span for the young masters and PhD students I meet. They seem simply unable to focus on a single subject for 5 minutes without getting distracted.

In the old days... (1)

genghisjahn (1344927) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975434)

It would take a week for someone to get me a message from the coast by way of the mail car on the train. Now with these "telegraph" lines everywhere I get bombarded with messages sent directly to me almost every dang day. It's like being surrounded by silent screams all the time. I barely have time to watch the crops grow after I plant them. I say, if it can't be communicated by smoke signal (which ensures the message is important enough that the sender take the time to build a fire) then it's too far away from me to be of any import. And you're on my lawn...

Book on the topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975470)

http://www.amazon.com/Shallows-What-Internet-Doing-Brains/dp/0393072223

Go read this, it explains a history of the brain in the context of development of language, writing, structured thinking etc. and if you're really interested, its a good read.

They wont let us! (0)

dragon-file (2241656) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975494)

I don't know what kinds of devices most people use, but i opted out of the model with robot arms, facial recognition software, and ruler to smack you with when you stop paying attention to it.

Phew! (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975514)

asto21 writes:

So if you're anything like me...

I'd blow my brains out before that ever happened.

I am still capable of reading "three paragraphs" without the need to "check Twitter, count the additions to Google Plus circles, read a handful of new incoming email messages, and chime in on a couple of ongoing instant message conversations".

For one thing, "instant message conversation" is an oxymoron.

"But are we paying less attention to important..." (4, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975534)

tl;dr

Slashdot (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975566)

I should be working on a problem with our backup system and yet here I am reading /.

sorry, (1)

alienzed (732782) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975606)

could you repeat that?

Re:sorry, (1)

Cragen (697038) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975750)

Comedy Central's Short Attention Span Theater => which was shortened to SAST cuz we viewers were, um, too, um, ... what?

Wrong Question. (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975618)

No, you're learning what the important details actually are.

NOT EVOLUTION (1)

cforciea (1926392) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975728)

Even if you buy into the idea that somehow our brain chemistry has changed because of our environments such that we have gotten better at multitasking, it isn't evolution. Evolution would require that the ability to multi-task increased the odds of having viable offspring so that genetic tendencies to increase this ability would be selected for over generations of breeding.

Dear Author. I am not like you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975740)

I don't check my facebook, twitter or other crap every five minutes. I don't have a google + account. Not sure when I'll get one.

Facebook I hit every day or two, but then usually only if something in particular is going on.

Twitter is for twits. I don't need to know every random 140 character thought of my peers.

That does it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975788)

Starting today, I'm swearing off Slashdot.

More realistically, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975798)

I read the summary as saying, "And in an incredible burst of human evolution, our minds have grown accustomed to ignoring multiple inputs at once."

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975890)

You're ignoring the poison dart I just stuck in your neck. Tonight I shall wear your skin.

YO !! DUMFUK !! THAT"S NOT "AT ONCE". (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975914)

At once means AT THE SAME TIME !! Stopping one thing and doing another IS NOT THE SAME TIME !!

The only thing that can be said of this is, the internet exposes to you those whom you would have never have had the displearure to meet. Like the DUMFUK that wrote this stupid story !!

The Overwhelming Ocean of Information (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36975970)

With the access to the abundant amount of information, I think people tend to get lost or overwhelmed by it all, and resort to random selections of incoming sources. First one has to organize their sources of information into the least amount of categories, and automate the incoming information into the form of a tabbed listings or news feeds. You can do this with separate twitter accounts or just make a few RSS groups in your Thunderbird. Personally I have four categories; 1. Technology (which also involves my work), 2. Politicoeconomy, 3. Philosophy and 4.Personal. The information feeds into my devices always in those 4 catergories, and I stay up to date with as much as possible about the things I think are most significant. When I come across a new source of information like an interesting tech blog, I add it to it's respective category. It also helps to make sure that people connected to you in your facebook(/now gone) Google+ account are people you actually give a shit about.

The reality is... nobody does this. (4, Insightful)

BitwiseX (300405) | more than 3 years ago | (#36975980)

We don't! We may have 3 IMs, 4 new emails, 12 tweets, and a Facebook message to read, but the reality is, we don't read them all at once. It may be shortsighted, but I've always considering multitasking to be an illusion. We may be rapidly shifting focus, but we're never really focused on more than one thing at any given time.

I've learned over the years that prioritizing, and putting items/tasks/people on "the back burner" (even if for a few minutes) has resulted in an increase in quality of work, and overall sanity. Focus on a task. Only shift gears if absolutely necessary (priorities will always do this), or when there is a lull of activity (waiting on approvals, server builds, etc.).

Don't lie to me! You know when you're answering 2 IM conversations with a phone in your ear, you're cutting corners, missing information, and just trying to shut someone the hell up, so you can slow down and take a breath.... so politely put them off.

Re:The reality is... nobody does this. (1)

BitwiseX (300405) | more than 3 years ago | (#36976012)

oh and P.S. Email is not an instant messaging protocol. If you're afraid of your unread count reaching double digits.. rethink that strategy.

show me the facts or shut up (3, Interesting)

Tom (822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36976208)

Yeah, right. "evolved" - in less than one generation. Someone here desperately needs to go back to evolution 101 and figure out what the term means.

So you really mean "adapt", yes? Maybe you should do less Twitter checking while you're writing blog postings. Because so far, all the studies that I have read or read about strongly indicate that so-called multitasking is highly detrimental to all the covered tasks. Flow and concentration remain as powerful tools as they are, because - surprise, surprise - the human brain really hasn't changed all that much in the last 1000 or so years. It is, however, much more adaptable than we thought for a long time, and if you give it the same tasks over and over, it will learn to cope with them. Somehow. That doesn't necessarily mean good.

Oh, and then there are all these little psychological facts that we've uncovered over the past century or so, that all indicate that one of the strongest and most reliable powers of the brain is the ability to delude itself. It is more than fascinating what people believe inside their heads and how little that sometimes has to do with outside reality. Book hint "Mistakes were made (but not by me)".

So you may think that your brain has evolved to cope with the demands of modern multi-channel communication. Now be scientific and make the test whether
a) anything critical really is different in your brain compared to someone who doesn't do this kind of attention-hopping
b) what you believe about yourself and your ability to handle multiple inputs simultaneously or in rapid succession is at all true

check your assumptions first. Then, and only then, write something that requires them to be true in order to make any sense at all.

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