Why multitasking is addictive but not very smart
Checking your email while waiting for the kettle to boil and stuffing laundry in the machine while you’re at it. Sound familiar? That’s because multitasking is addictive.
Journalist Karin Sitalsing (Trouw) asked Jos De Mul, Professor in Philosophical Anthropology and its History at Erasmus University, why she gets so distracted and confused all the time.
According to Jos de Mul, the kick we get out of new stimuli turns us into junkies when multitasking. ‘It’s about the interruption, because we want something new. The quick satisfaction,’ he explains.
De Mul researched the relationship between multitasking and concentration disorders and found out that while multitasking sounds productive, it’s not at all. ‘Switching between tasks means you have to get into those tasks, which costs time. That’s very inefficient. You should finish something before starting something else. Multitasking heightens stress, because it takes a long time to finish even one task. That can finally lead to fatigue and burn-outs.’
Our brains get a bit overloaded with all those smartphones, tablets, and media that demand our attention. We have the option to read a book and check our email on the same machine; it’s tempting. We forget how to focus on one thing at a time. Impulsive, sensation-hungry people who get bored easily are especially susceptible to this. And it’s those people who are worst at it.
That doesn’t mean we can no longer put on some music while driving the car. ‘Some things do go together, but those are tasks you carry out at a different level of attention, with different senses. You can listen to music and wash the dishes, but you can’t follow two conversations at the same time.’
So Now What?
So can we change this useless addiction? There are things you can do, says De Mul – at least to learn how to deal with all those impulses, because you’ll never lose those personality traits that make you susceptible. ‘You can put a lock on your social media, for example. Or just leave the house without your phone. Take a walk. Read a book.’
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