The Real Damage of Multi-Tasking
In a world where there are so many things happening at the same time, all the time, brain science is screaming to be heard above the din. Its desperate cry is one of dangers and catastrophic effects. From the distracted drivers to the massive hike in the rates of children with Attention Deficit Disorder. It begs for the chance to raise its voice over the battle cries of stockholder profitability and the teenage angst of Fear of Missing Out. We can hardly go a day without a relevant news agency heralding new research that implores us to change our ways and embrace mindfulness practices. In truth, the damage that multi-tasking causes is far more personal. Its immediate and its culture shifting. Think about how often during a conversation someone interrupts to say “Sorry, I just have to check my phone.” There is always a seemingly valid reason, but for a moment, consider how that impacts you while you sit there watching. You’re left to wonder how much of what you just said did they miss, because they wanted to check their phone for whatever important message may or may not be waiting. Most people sub-consciously take this precise second to mimic the other person’s actions and check their own phone, almost as if there might be something equally as important waiting for them.
How about the attempted conversation with your boss or spouse while they are working on something else? As soon as you start getting the canned responses that tell you they aren’t paying full attention to what you, you push on hoping something you say will regain their resonance and attention. It’s inevitable that days later there will be a second conversation that includes “remember the other day when you were working on (insert whatever activity they were doing) and I told you (insert whatever you said)?
The thread of the fabric of how humans have survived is woven of group dynamics and social constructs. We’ve adapted because we work well together to solve problems. We solve problems well together because of our communication systems. Our communication systems are built on a common motivation for survival. Pull the thread and that begins an unraveling that winds its way through the generations, changes the value we place on the group dynamics and weakens the fabric that holds our social constructs in a warm, safe arrangement.
The real damage of multi-tasking is in the way we no longer place our adaptable tribes at the top of our attentional list. Sound apocalyptic? Maybe, but the next time that you experience the impact of a multi-tasking moment on your relationship, I beg you, just for a moment, consider it.