Human Multitasking

In Ellen Goodman’s Crosscurrents essay on Multitasking, she highlights the research of Clifford Nass, a professor of human-computer interactions at Stanford. Nass led a research team that studied 100 multitasking students and went on record to say, “I don’t know that this generation values focused attention. The notion that attention is at the core of a relationship is declining.” Nass’ research showed that the multitaskers focused poorly, remembered less, and were more easily distracted. They could not shift tasks, prioritize or organize well. I must say, this research does not surprise me in the least.

Some say that the effectiveness of multitasking depends a little on timing. The student reading a textbook or listening to an audiotape or videotape while experiencing frequent interruptions can often take as much extra time as he or she needs. In other situations, however, such as a student watching a lecture or educational film or a class discussion while text messaging, the situation would not offer any option to pause the educational presentation (Pashler, 2013).

What might the long-term consequences be of human multitasking for individuals? They may result in more distracted living. Craig Wax, writer of “The Illusion of Multitasking,” coins the phrase ‘distracted living,’ as this technologic form of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “Instead of starting and seeing a task to completion, constant interruptions, messaging, and intervening media events unnecessarily complicate the task at hand. Each project now takes much more time to complete, and more errors and omissions result from the tech multitasking” (Wax, 2012).

In some cases, however, multitasking may actually be positive. According to Wasson, writer of “Multitasking During Virtual Meetings,” multitasking during virtual meetings can be productive, as long as employees make the meeting their first priority and only multitasks when attention resources are not being utilized by the meeting (Wasson, 2004).

And what then, are the long-term consequences of human multitasking be for society? Craig Wax, states that “Civility is giving away to isolationism. Common courtesy has been reduced to uncommon or unheard-of courtesy. People have become irritable and easily annoyed by delays — and completely inconsiderate of others” (Wax, 2012). This marks the notion then, that we as as society will need to accept this or strive to change it in some way. “Would you be happy if your doctor was checking e-mail or Facebook during your surgery or office visit?,” Wax asks.

In simple terms, perhaps we need to use ‘evil’ to perform ‘good’ deeds. We can use technology by active engagement — develop strategies to engage students in sequential learning. Students need to be given problems that require computer/technology skills, and taught how to structure problems so they can solve them. We can use visual media, social media, and auditory media to stimulate their thinking (Pfohl, 2012). It sounds so crazy that it just might work.


Work Cited:
Pashler, H., Kang, S. H. K. and Ip, R. Y. (2013), Does Multitasking Impair Studying? Depends on Timing. Appl. Cognit. Psychol., 27: 593–599. doi: 10.1002/acp.2919. Retrieved from

Pfohl, B. (2012). Is multitasking helpful or harmful?. Bethesda: Retrieved from

Wasson, C. (2004). Multitasking during virtual meetings. HR.Human Resource Planning, 27(4), 47-60. Retrieved from

Wax, C. M., D.O. (2012). The illusion of multitasking. Medical Economics, 89(7), 7-8. Retrieved from

Database Technology and Privacy Issues

Cultural analysts have argued that privacy is less important to the younger generation, a generation that grew up with YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and texting. As a result of this careless distribution of personal information, adolescents are seen as easy targets for commercial and identity fraud, as well as for emotional and sexual abuse (Trepte, 2011). This is both a blessing and a curse, from the powerful database technology that we have at our fingertips.

On the one hand, privacy is a basic human need. Self-disclosure has been defined as “the process of making the self known to other persons” (Jourard and Lasakow, 1958). It is anthropologically and psychologically rooted in the sense of shame and the need for bodily integrity, personal space, and intimacy in interpersonal relationships (Trepte, 2011). On the other hand, however, social networking sites pose many privacy risks for their users, ranging from unauthorized use of their information by government agencies and businesses to attacks by hackers, phishers, and data miners.

Why do we disclose so much information about ourselves when it is not safe? Many acts of self-disclosure today are not the result of an elaborate consideration of its advantages and disadvantages. Rather, users disclose information spontaneously or even unconsciously during communication processes with others. It is not possible to receive social gratifications without disclosing any form of personal information such as thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Additionally, users are often not aware of the possible long-term consequences of these acts of self-disclosure.

While some adults are concerned about an invasion of their privacy on the Internet, adolescents seem to present personal and intimate information on the Internet without a problem. The Internet provides adolescents with just the privacy they need to explore their identity, experiment with intimate issues beyond the confines of face-to-face communication, and to find information and social support regarding developmentally sensitive issues. It creates the space for self-exploration and self-assessment, which are essential components in an individual’s development, particularly in adolescence (Trepte, 2011).

And the Internet is not just for ‘youngins.’ Social media use among elderly individuals has dramatically increased and is expected to gain further importance in the future. 25% of Internet users aged 50–64 years used social networking sites in 2009. In 2010, these percentages went up to 47%. 71% of social activity included activities of self-disclosure, making self-disclosure the most frequently observed behavior (Trepte, 2011). Asking for advice, giving advice, discussion with other members, building new relationships, seeking a dating partner and meeting people online were important motivations for the elderly (Trepte, 2011).

Based on the current uptake of social media and projected increased usage, the tension between privacy and database technology will only grow stronger as powerful database applications become more pervasive in our world. Users today feel that the pros far outweigh the cons. The growing risks and possible issues will have to fall where they may and be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Work Cited:
Beekman, G., & Beekman, B. (2012). Digital Planet: Tomorrow’s Technology and You, Complete Tenth Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.

Jourard, S.M. & Lasakow, P. (1958). Some Factors in Self-disclosure. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 56 (1), 91-98.

Trepte, S., Reinecke, L. 2011. Privacy Online. Perspectives on Privacy and Self-disclosure in the Social Web. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-21521-6