I Couldn’t Keep My Attention for this Blog…

This week we are exploring “Attention and Multi-Tasking”. I had different ideas of what to write for the blog, but I couldn’t decide in which to elaborate more about, and in honor to the topic of the week, I decided to share the three threads of thought that came to my mind while reading the different articles.

  1. I remember before I started working in the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnership Authority (PRP3A). I have had a smartphone for a little while; I mostly used it for my personal email, some internet surfing, and multiple non important applications. Once I connected my smartphone to the work email, it never ended beeping from incoming email. It was like I was never out of the office; I received emails in the middle of the night, during weekends, every time and everywhere… Technology makes us more efficient and helps us organize ourselves better; at least that is what it is supposed to do. At what point is technology making our life’s more complicated, when is it competing with other tasks in our lives?
  2. Now in my PhD I find myself with a similar conundrum but to a lower scale. Now, I find myself bombarded with endless sources of information. Now I have a dissertation topic that I am exploring, other topics related to it that call my attention, and unrelated topics that I want to learn more about or just read. If I see something that calls my attention I open the link, sometimes I have no time to read it and I leave it open for later, or download it as a PDF. As of today I have 291 tabs open in my web browser, I will probably never read all of these articles. I see that I am not alone, as Nicholas Carr mentions.
  3. The internet is an endless source of information; the problem is that it is full of misinformation too. You have to very careful of what you are reading and vetted with several other sources. We as researchers do that, but not everyone does it. We have competing sources of information, it all depends from where we get ours. Recently, I read an article that mentioned that a majority of millennials are getting their political news from social media, and how this can be very troubling. You read mostly what appears in your news feed, and this is predetermined by previous posts that you liked, effectively taking out other news from your possible sources. This is troubling, but not that different to what will happen if you watch a specific TV channel where you know they cover some specific news or from a certain perspective. At the end of the day, we have to learn to parse through different sources of information and use our critical thinking to form our own opinions.

This three threads of thought are different but they have something in common. It all comes down to the idea that technology should be something that helps us to be more efficient; like been able to send an email from anywhere in the world from your cell phone or been able to access information like never before. It all comes to what Clive Thompson says in an interview to Nick Bilton, and my mom told me when I was little and still does: “everything in moderation.”

20 thoughts on “I Couldn’t Keep My Attention for this Blog…”

  1. 291 tabs! How is that possible? My computer would rather roll over and die before letting me do that!

    I really like your post – at what point does technology become too much of a good thing that we lose our lives! I think technology is great, but at some point we have to put the cell phone down and just engage into class the old fashion way.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Turner

  2. I think you make an excellent point here in #3 about the immense amount of misinformation available on the Internet. Your thoughts remind me of a quote from Michael Scott on The Office, where he says “Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject, so you know you’re getting the best information possible.” Obviously The Office is a comedy and this is meant to be sarcastic and funny, but many people probably do rely on Wikipedia and other online platforms as the end all, especially if that site is the first one to pop up in the results from a Google search.

  3. I couldn’t help laughing when reading that you have 291 tabs open in your web browser. I have exactly the same struggle. Unfortunately, my safari browser stops working every once in a while, and all the opened tabs would disappear. That’s when I have the most frustration.

  4. Answering the question in the first bullet, I think having emails coming to us on our phones makes our lives complicated in some ways. I am personally tempted to look at emails as soon as they come on my phone. And sometimes, I am also tempted to respond to them. This means, if its a work-related email, by checking it, I doing work at times when I should be enjoying with friends and family. While there are many benefits of smartphones, I personally think smartphones keep us to work all day, and sometimes all night too.

    1. Yes Ashish, it is like you are never away from the office. This could make you very productive, but that time that you used to spent with your family or just doing something else is now been taken over by this new “efficiency”.

  5. The number of tabs on your browser is impressive! I also always have a ton of tabs, windows, programs, etc. open and it makes me almost feel more stressed, but I would rather feel more stressed than potentially lose any of the valuable information I found that could possibly be useful (yet I that I will probably never use). I agree with your last statement especially- my blogging this week reflected this “moderation” thought. I do feel it becomes more difficult to moderate my technology use when I am neck deep in academic literature, however. Maybe I can try a “technology sabbath” as referred to in the reading!

    1. Yes, sadly I have too much tabs open. I fear it is going to crash soon. I saw your blog and found it very interesting. Like you say, moderation is key. Maybe the “technology sabbath” is too much, maybe not…

  6. Thinking of having 291 tabs open makes me so anxious! My analog to that is probably the hundreds and hundreds of papers I’ve downloaded into my Mendeley account that I have not and will probably never read.

    Great points about all of the misinformation available. It pains me to see some of the things my friends and family members post on social media that seem to me to be obviously unreliable. If you are new to technology, it seems like a huge task to learn how to critically assess the validity of information.

    1. I relate to your papers collection, I have one too 🙂 When it comes to social media postings, people share all type of stuff in social media thinking it is true, I believe I have done it too myself. There is so much stuff that sometimes false information looks real, or people are just using it out of context. I remember a meme of Einstein that said: “I never said that”. Thanks for the comment!

  7. I love this blog. To your first point, I have a distinct memory of the first Blackberry I ever had, around 2008. About a week in I was lamenting to my girlfriend that I wanted to return it, that I was too connected to everyone. I took it back to Verizon and the guy told me to keep it just for another week and at the end of the week I was better with it. I didn’t want to chuck it out the window anymore.
    Fast forward to now, I don’t want to be without my technology, but I can. I turn everything off at night because, as a wise woman once told me, “if your dad dies overnight, he’ll still be dead in the morning and at least you will have gotten some sleep.” Harsh, but true.
    If I wasn’t in a long distance relationship, I probably wouldn’t even have a smart phone. Let’s be real, people don’t need me to respond to them by email right away, they just like it. I don’t need to update FaceBook every 5 minutes, I just like to do it.
    It is what it is. Technology within reason. Now if I could just get my students to see it that way.

    1. Thanks for the comment Katie! That advice from the old woman, like you said, is harsh but very true. I had never seen it that way, I believe the counter point is if you still can make it in time to see the family member for the last time and you weren’t available. That doesn’t help much now a days that family is scattered around the nation or internationally.
      The comment of not having to respond instantaneously to emails is very true; we need to change that mentality that everything has to be in that exact moment, almost everything can wait.

  8. Sure, digital technology has brought several new issues and impressive advantages. I can’t only think about sending letters to collaborators in other countries to discuss some research ideas, like in the times of Darwin… that is when I REALLY appreciate digital technology. I think that judging reliability of information has been always a problem. We need to help students develop critical thinking skills to determine whether a source of information is credible or not, regardless if it comes in the wikipedia format, or Fox news, or even manuscripts form human civilizations a few hundred of years ago.

    1. Very true Bernardo. Your comment reminded me of when my mom told me of an uncle that went to study medicine in Spain when she was little and everyone in the family waited for his letters anxiously. Thankfully we have now Skype and other sources that allow us to communicate and see each other live.

      The second part of the comment, I concur with you, we have to foster that curiosity in students that they have to critically analyze the information they receive, to challenge it, and find several sources that corroborate or negate it.

      Thanks for the comment!

  9. I like your post and I agree with you that technology can be overwhelm to people and an endless sources of information. However, technology still facilitate people’s life and work, and push us to be more efficient. Therefore, educators in this era should focus on how to guide their students to identify useful information, what is an authoritative and responsible website/recourse, how to arrange the time on searching information(internet) in order to avoid distracting by un-useful information. Teachers should learn how to appropriately utilize on-line information themselves first. Besides, one can set up a specific time in a day, such as 8-9am, 2-3pm, 9-10pm to read and response emails, so they will not distracted from their current work.

  10. I like each of your three thought threads equally, but I’ll only comment on the third. James touched on some of this in his post where he talks about helping student consume information responsibly. This is definitely going to be key going forward. Teaching students how to weed through the bias opinions posted as fact on countless blogs and article comment sections. They’re so easy to believe when it’s what you want to hear, and so frustrating when you know it’s wrong.

  11. In response to your last meaningful wisdom “everything in moderation”, I cannot agree with your mom more! In Eastern culture, it is all about balance and moderation. It is definitely impossible to chuck technology out of the window. But we can use it comparative advantage and combine it with human advantage. Like the chess example. Man and machine won’t be good alone, but the combination of these two makes a different. So in this sense, this moderation is, in fact, a win-win situation.
    BTW, a lot of us are really impressed by the number of tabs you have in your browser!

    A really great post. Thanks for sharing!
    Yanliang

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