Free Food Anyone?

A question raised from this week’s reading was whether our constant connection to the internet has caused distraction in our lives, particularly in the classroom and during times when we learn. Evidence [1,2,3] has also pointed to the inability of the human brain to multitask, but our connection to online devices has often forced us to switch between tasks when instead we should be concentrating. What surprised me, however, was that none of the readings thought to mention the distractions inherent in the American higher education system. I’m thinking about all the campus events – the football lottery, the guest speaker, the free food in the office upstairs. Is it really a wonder that students are distracted when our inboxes experience constant influx and we feel obliged to be updated in case of missed opportunity?

I used the word “obliged” because students now are almost expected to venture away from the books and be involved in different facets of university life. Employers like to see students doing things other than school work. Valuable skills can certainly be gained, and it is worthwhile to dive into one’s passion. But the time devoted means keeping up with the relevant opportunities and communication, which now seem to occur almost exclusively online.

With so much going on, time management seems increasingly important. Perhaps this is a skill that we need to talk about. Concentration is one part of it, as it helps us maximize the use of our time. I will try not to multitask anymore, after having that myth debunked. The other part is prioritization, and perhaps this is where we could be smarter about how we use the internet. Could we be more selective of the notifications that pop up on our devices? Could programs be more intuitively designed so that we could have greater control over the information influx? Lastly, for obvious reasons, we also have to exercise discipline and simply refrain from wasting time when we need to get something done. Turn off the phone. The world won’t end from the short-term abstinence.

[1] Technology: Myth of Multitasking

[2] Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again

[3] Media multitaskers pay mental price, Stanford study shows