multi-tasking in a social media world

Images There was an interesting article in the New York Times Science section today with the headline Texting, Surfing, Studying?  The article focused on the generational divide around technology. 

There has been little research on the impact of media on attention skills.  Basically, the science of researching these phenomenas have not kept up with technology.  It got me thinking.

My kids are totally texting, surfing, studying kids.  Emily totally admits to the addiction that when she is studying and someone pops up, she cuts out for a few to have a chat.  Sometimes those chats last longer than she'd like.  It is an addiction.  No different than the majority of people walking around NYC addicted to their information coming at them through their IPhone or Blackberry.  I see it in Josh too.  He is having at least 5 conversations at once while watching a sporting event and if I don't catch him, his homework too. 

My kids grew up with information coming at them and some of the earliest game playing on the Internet.  Their ease with taking in technology and boat loads of information working at the speed of light is impressive.  Also, they have learned through this to be serious multi-taskers.  Perhaps it is something that comes naturally to them or perhaps it is a learned skill.  I believe it might be the latter.

They are living on Facebook, You Tube and other large social media worlds.  These worlds are the size of small countries if you look at the sheer numbers of people across the world using these services.  Social media isn't going away, it is just getting larger.  The way we communicate with each other and take on information has transformed quicker than anything we have seen since the beginning of time.

What is the most interesting about the social media world is if you didn't see it coming or you don't feel comfortable in it, there is a huge divide.  Since the economy went south, the world of social media appears to me
to have taken on a larger role in every business.  If you aren't in it
and haven't figured out how to change with the way things are going,
you are done.  Simple. Parents who don't embrace this world and especially the older working force that doesn't embrace the new world are creating a larger separation as each day passes.  Simply put it is  those who do and those who don't.  It is like speaking a different language and not understanding a thing the other one says. 

As for my kids, I am thrilled that they are able to navigate the world at the pace it is growing.  Always looking for the latest blog, the next application, what is the top hit on You Tube, Twitter information, friends on Facebook, Flickr photos from the last party, etc.  At the end of the day, it isn't affecting their school work one iota.  If anything, these tools are helping them become the best and the brightest of the 21st century world of the social media world we live in today.  Personally, I love that. 

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Comments (Archived):

  1. ellen

    I can remember the first time back in 1994 I needed medical info quickly. At that time I could only get abstracts and had to go to the Harvard medical library to actually look everything up. Remember everyone referred to the invention of the internet as the Gutenberg bible of our time?For me in my family my husband was the first to get a car phone in stalled in 1980 and I was the last. By then it was all hand held. I needed peace for a least 20 minutes.

  2. WA

    Great Article and I am in agreement that there is a generational divide that needs to be overcome. Your point is as lucid as the TV commercial in the 1970s with a woman close to the octogenarian threshold saying “If man was meant to fly he would have been born with wings.” Social media takes our communication and commuting modes to the next level. No argument, right on.In addition we may recognize a growing issue with individuals, no matter the generation, in their business and social graces within the group dynamic. One of “continuous partial attention.” For example, count the number of people who throughout a meeting, periodically engage in “leaving” that meeting via diverted focus to their blackberry and iphone. We may contemplate the effect on efficiently managing and motivating to prioritized agendas by leadership. This case may be analogous to walking into a meeting 10 years ago, sitting down and addressing paper files of emails and tasks to be done. Obviously the intermittent focus to the group, gathered for a focused purpose can erode effectiveness as well as being rude. From a behavioral standpoint there will be a strong need to address and adapt the efficacy and other components of the group dynamic to these changing paradigms, irrespective of the generational divide. Thanks for the seeds of thought today.

  3. cant_tweet

    I am in my early 40’s and am not interested in keeping up with the attention-deficit producing, self-absorbed, social media wave. I don’t facebook – and if that that means I cant be “friends” with every person I’ve ever met during the course of my life, or marvel at how bald or fat someone in high school has gotten – or learn what “city” someone is – or sate my inner voyeuristic needs – then so be it. Being a voyeur – is so much less interesting than actually doing, or being a part of real life. If I want to be in touch, I call or write or e-mail, or send a handwritten note.I understand the significance of, but am not interested in the business aspect of social media. I prefer not to be bombarded with advertisements throughout the day via twitter or facebook. That is not to say I don’t utilize or enjoy some new technologies – For example, I do have a blackberry – I just don’t use it during meetings, talk on the phone in an elevator or on line, or while I’m strolling in the park on a beautiful day. I use it judiciously and do enjoy the freedom it affords me. I do not have to be chained to my desk if I am expecting an e-mail – but would rather be on a hike or at the gym. The point in this case, is that I check it once – as needed – and then put it away – not chronically and obsessively all day. I don’t spend an entire hike texting everyone I know – telling them that I just peed in the woods. I also don’t text or take phone calls during my weekly tennis game. I enjoy the DVR, because it frees me from the unwanted clutter of consumerism, it saves time, and offers additional freedom. Of course, the advent of the internet is revolutionary. But not without limitations. You can buy it online, but you can’t smell it, taste it, or put your hand on the fabric. Any foodie would never buy their produce from Fresh Direct.I recently worked with an editor (I am a producer) – who glanced down at her Iphone every time she got a text throughout the day – like a Pavlovian trained dog. She answered many texts and even took a call or two! I was her boss. I was sitting next to her. I was not texting or talking. I was staring in disbelief while focusing on the work. I told her that in future edit sessions that I would not allow phones, and that we would take regularly scheduled breaks where she could check. SHE was irked by me! She may not want to work with me again – but frankly – I’m willing to find another less technology-obsessed person who is.I agree with the Gotham Gal that the world is changing, and we need to be aware of how it is changing, and whether the changes make positive or negative impacts. Kids are less polite today – not a good trend. We use more energy today an pollute more. Climate change is a huge danger. Not good. We’re expected to be connected to our work 24/7. As a result people are working more hours, at a different pace with new expectations on them. Um, not good in my book. Most people (albeit probably not the elite group of top one percenters who read your blog) work more – just to be able to buy and have more THINGS they now “need.” This comes at a cost of never seeing their kids, working 7 days a week (talk to your taxi driver who has a herniated disc, no health insurance and a family he never sees).I may not have facebook. I wont tweet. I may not be keeping up. But I am obsessed with many things that most people aren’t – such as recyling, buying less, politeness, simplifying, ethics, human rights and vegetarianism to name a few. I know there is a risk to me in business for shunning the norm, swimming against the tide. But my actions are intended to forward the greater good, and hopefully have a positive effect on my life as well.