The case against multitasking.
On job interviews, you tend to hear the phrase “I’m a great multitasker.” It is a point of pride for people. Everyone thinks they can multitask. But can you really? Can you really think, talk, listen, type, and be effective all at the same time? Recent studies show only 2% of people can successfully pull it off. The odds aren’t in most people’s favor.
In the office, we’ve been talking a lot about Breaking Bad. There are the few people like me who come into the office every Monday with our jaws still dragging on the floor, and there’s the people anxiously catching up, performing marathon weekends only to cover their ears Monday morning in the bullpen when they hear the words “Did you watch last night’s episode?”
While we try not to be spoilers for our colleagues, there is something we all agreed on: the show requires 100% attention. It’s not something you can do while talking, surfing the web, texting, tweeting, eating, going to the bathroom, or cooking. You’d miss a crucial detail. And with a show like Breaking Bad, all the details matter.
Why do I bring this up? For starters, it is counter to what many pundits in the ad industry say is the current trend: that people, especially 20-somethings like me, multitask while watching TV and are thus more prone to sharing or commenting on branded content, or buying things.
Secondly, if you believe a quality TV show requires 100% of your attention, so should you believe that any worthwhile task deserves it, too. It’s the basic premise of the campaign against texting while driving—something that is also highly relevant to my age group. You can’t do it safely. How many times have you looked at your screen while someone is speaking to you, only for you to say 30 seconds later “I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention, what?”
Here’s another sad image of our times: Friends out to dinner or at a bar aren’t communicating with one another; they’re all staring at their phones. You’ve all seen it at one point in your life. More than likely you’ve unknowingly participated in it at some point as well. No physical communication because our attention is to our devices.
With so many technological outlets at our hands, it’s hard not to multitask. Recent studies show my generation switches screens as many as 27 times per hour. That’s nearly once every two minutes. There are messages constantly coming through to different devices. Texts on your phone. Instant messaging on your screen. Tablet notifications. Emails on all three. Everyone talks about the “second screen” like it’s a third appendage. Sure, it’s fun to live-tweet with millions during an event, but what are you missing because your mind is “multitasking”?