Sunday, January 16, 2011

Social Media and Multitasking

I've always felt that social media makes greater demands on our tendency to multi-task.

And then I came across this question I found on Quora:

What kind of cognitive changes have been observed of people engaged in a near constant use of social media?
So I posted the following answer, keeping the multi-tasking angle in mind: 

One definite cognitive change would be an increase in the tendency to multi-task. We're driven to constantly maintain, check and update our timelines across multiple social platforms even while we may be engaged in other 'offline' tasks. These social media platforms are making far greater demands on our limited average attention span. There's constant shifting of attention, between various social media and offline activities. This could result in people no longer being able to focus on any one task. 

As a victim of this tendency, I'd personally like to believe that multi-tasking is good for the brain and that it helps us learn to process more information at the same time. 

Here are some relevant studies that indicate otherwise:


 results also illustrate an age-old conflict in the brain, one that technology may be intensifying. A portion of the brain acts as a control tower, helping a person focus and set priorities. More primitive parts of the brain, like those that process sight and sound, demand that it pay attention to new information, bombarding the control tower when they are stimulated.


Managing two mental tasks at once reduces the brainpower available for either task, according to a study published in the journal NeuroImage. “It doesn’t mean you can’t do several things at the same time,” says Dr. Just, co-director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging, interviewed by Buzz About Science. “But we’re kidding ourselves if we think we can do so without cost.”


According to a Stanford study, multitaskers are “suckers for irrelevancy” according to communication Professor Clifford Nass, one of the researchers whose findings are published in the Aug. 24 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Everything distracts them.”

This answer is cross-posted from Quora where it received 3 votes, making it the top answer to the question so far. 

What's your personal experience with multi-tasking, social-media and both of these put-together? 

No comments:

Post a Comment