I was listening to the radio yesterday, and happened upon a discussion between Terry Gross of NPR and Matt Richtel of the New York Times. He wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning series for the Times, called "Driven to Distraction" where he delved into mullti-tasking behind the wheel. Fascinating stuff.
The main thrust of this discussion yesterday was how, as a society, we are all constantly connected, and therefore overwhelmed by data. He compared it to those old experiments done with lab rats, where a rat would press a bar and presto, out would come food. The rat quickly learned to press the bar. When the experiment changed to intermittent reinforcement (i.e., sometimes you press the bar and get food, sometimes you don't), the rat would constantly press the bar to see if they were gonna get lucky. E-mail kind of works like that for humans. You check it all the time. Sometimes you get something you like, sometimes you don't. God forbid you don't have access to it.
And why do we check our e-mail so often? Because we get a little rush from it... thus, it becomes a bit of an addiction. Without it you feel bored. I know I'm slightly addicted to Active Rain. I bet a bunch of you are, too. Thank goodness there is something to be gained by paying attention to AR- sure beats my Scrabble addiction (which brings me occasional triumph, but mostly just frustration).
It used to be when you wanted to procrastinate, you would wander into the t.v. room (remember when most houses had one t.v.?) and watch something. Now, just about all of us have a t.v. in our pocket. There are endless opportunities to procrastinate, and so our days become filled with (often) useless distractions. It fills the time, but it doesn't make the best use of it. I know I'm always feeling a little harried by the end of the day, and a lot of the time I have regrettably little to show for it.
The truth is, when we're connected to a screen, our attention shifts. Can't tell you how many times my kids have had ice cream in the middle of the day because I'm distracted by what's on the screen in front of me. I'm now wising up to the trick, but the truth is I'm not so good at focusing on two things at once. Not many people are, hence, the article above. I know I need to work on being more connected to this world and less connected to my little (or not so little) screens.
In the not too distant past, when you sat down in front of a computer it was to do some real work. Today, thanks to all of the games, e-mails, web sites, blogs, weather reports, shopping, etc., computers no longer = productivity. I haven't worked in a "real" office for 15 years, but it's no wonder my last employer didn't want us communicating via e-mail with the outside world. We were limited to internal messaging only. I think they were on to something.
I'm relatively new to blogging. I like it, and feel that it benefits my clients, particularly when I need to share detailed information with them about the intricacies of real estate. Facebook and Twitter... let's just say I've signed up, but haven't exactly embraced them. Despite all of the hype to connect on these forums, I'm not entirely convinced I want to spend what little is left of my precious time cultivating an audience in these worlds. Even though I'm an admitted slave to my e-mail, I get far too many of them to truly enjoy it. And I'm pretty sure my friends and clients don't want to hear from me when I'm having an open house via Facebook & Twitter updates. Chances are, if it was of interest, I would have called or e-mailed them ahead of time... especially if I felt it was important.
I'm pretty sure I'm not alone on this. Where do you draw the line?