Tag Archives: multitasking

Multitasking Rots Your Brains

Playing online chess is like trying to get Wii Tennis to suffice for real tennis. You simply can’t digitally recreate the palpable exchange of energy with a live opponent in chess or tennis, as much as a shared physical space only seems a requisite for the sport and not the Eternal Game. (Give it time though… complete virtual reality sports with remote opponents will be quotidian soon enough.)

Beautiful female robot with computer mouseThe simulacra of social interactions that we enjoy online are stunting real relational and conversational skills.

I touched on this in Episode 25 of The Digital Dive Podcast (see 12-minute mark). We thrive off social interaction. Each transaction — from exchanging a greeting in an elevator to chatting at a coffee shop to flipping the bird in a fit of road rage, is a little rally, a serve, a distracted miss. The physiological feedback we get from connecting through technology (social media in particular) creates an addictive dopamine reward system in the brain.

We are bathing in these transactions, but they’re not happening in proximity to our bodies. So exactly what true energy are we processing? Tech addiction (i.e., checking habits) can cause a host of problems, including a loss of normal socialization skills. Something is lost when relational transactions occur primarily digitally. We’re breathing ether. I’ve tried to tweet a smell, it’s getting so bad.

Multitasking is Just Stuff

We should not assume that the quantity of available matches, so to speak, makes up for lost quality. You can’t multitask while playing chess or tennis. Finishing a live game satisfies a deep need for connection, competition, and stimulation. In play, we’re exchanging raw energy, we’re focused and mindful. You cannot be in positive psychology’s beloved zone (feeling flow) while watching TV, eating, texting, and Candy Crushing.

business man and woman multitasking acrobaticsSure, you can multitask continually throughout the day and imagine you are adequately returning simultaneous serves, nailing forehands, and setting up tidy gambits with your network, coworkers, clients, family, and friends as you tap and click, fire off emails, Facebook updates, texts, reblogs and Likes. But it’s fragmented. You aren’t focused. As Lester Burnham said, “This isn’t life, it’s just stuff!”  (- American Beauty)

Since I doubt many of us are willing to give up our technology, whenever possible, let’s return to the simple purity of focusing on just one task at a time. Read more books and fewer articles. The end game will be a disappointment otherwise.

Chess quiz – White to move and mate in 2 moves:

chess problem

Alain White, American Chess Bulletin, November-December 1941. Solution

Original chess move challenge posted 8/23/10, post updated 1/28/17

Texting During Dinner: Multitasking, FOMO, and Smartphone Etiquette

Emily PostSocial etiquette is becoming murkier everyday. Half of all adult Americans now own either a smartphone or tablet, and one-third use their mobile devices to view news stories and video clips at least weekly. –Half of U.S. adults own a smartphone or tablet, 2012 Pew survey Everybody’s on the phone. But they’re not just talking on the phone.

Instead of reiterating the obvious, I will dive into the implications for IRL interactions.

Cultural mores dictate certain things you shouldn’t do because they’re rude. And usually there are exceptions to these rules. Common sense used to suffice in this realm. Mobile technology has introduced a host of new implicit rules and exceptions, not to mention the generational divide over what’s considered rude. The key is whether the other person knows you have an exception (assuming they care or loosely adhere to the following). Common scenarios:

Bad Tech Behavior Exception Caveat/Details
Texting during a meal/date/outing Texting a friend who is on the way/lost/running late. Instagram can be fine if the other person gets it or joins in Instagramming the fire hydrant or heart-shaped coffee froth. Mention to present company that the other party is the person you’re texting. Generally, just give your undivided attention to the other person.
Using your phone while watching/listening to a presentation or speech Taking notes; taking a non-flash photo of the speaker/event; tweeting about the presentation Even if you’re just notetaking on your phone (and do use Evernote), it would look better to use a tablet, seemingly more public and when so, associated with single tasks like notetaking, whereas a phone screen is smaller, thus less conducive to notetaking and more private. Phone is better at hiding your potential bad tech behaviors. Ongoing tweeting is acceptable if the presentation is meant to be live tweeted- definitely if the event has a hashtag. But try and look up.
Texting, web search, or checking Facebook while on a date Showing something on Facebook that is relevant to the conversation. Googling/texting a mutual burning question to an authority. If you want to get away with any of these behaviors undetected, do not post anything. The person may now be or may end up your Facebook friend. A simple calendar check would let them put two and two together: you were multitasking them, as in digitally double-booking them.
Forgetting to turn your phone on silent or vibrate in the movies or at a meeting Movie theatre: no exception. Meeting: Vibrate is acceptable if expecting an important call or email but only if the phone is in your lap, pocket, or purse — not on the table. In a meeting where others are aware (and better yet, mutually affected by the outcome) of your expected call or email or text, vibrate mode on the table is fine.




 You know who you are.

I don’t want to be always on. I want to be in the moment even when the moment is paused for a bathroom break. It’s part of the bigger picture: we need to silence our FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Multitasking is addictive because it produces dopamine. We instinctually want to multitask because the big DA is a powerful reward-based neurotransmitter. It’s what makes cocaine and methamphetamines such fun. We bathe in dopamine for that neurological reward and in order to supposedly maximize our experience of all the available technology. But digital stress on the brain from multitasking makes us perform worse. We really can’t handle more than two tasks at once. We really should focus on the main task at hand: each other.