Image: Daniel Boland, Flickr. A Closer Look at Digital Distraction
Image: CubaGallery, Flickr. We are have become digital butterflies, effortlessly flitting from site to site and moving between multiple screens.
With constant connectivity, there is always a new piece of information or morsel of entertainment available – perfect for a quick escape from the real world or filling in moments of microbordom.Image: Jerrycharlotte, Flickr.
Image: Krelic, Flickr.The question is: Is easy access to this abundance of information really helping us to become better multitaskers?
Many are answering with a resounding No!Digital natives in particular may think they’re excellent multitaskers . . . Image: DinahSaysNothing, Flickr.
Image: Kenjj2, Flickr. But a study conducted by Stanford University reveals that media multitaskers “are not good at switching tasks or ignoring irrelevant information”* they’re just more easily distracted from their goals.* “Tangled in an endless web of distractions,” Boston Globe
Not all of our distractions are created equal. We will engage more with certain content or devices than we do with others.Understanding our own level of investment in different digital situations may help us cut out key distractions while working. Image: Jakedavies8, Flickr.
Enter: The hierarchy of digital distractions represents which interruptions we find most disruptive to our lives. Image: StephieWebb, Flickr.
Those that rank highest on the pyramid are the most distracting. Distractions which rank lower are much easier to ignore and will quickly lose our attention when something more important occurs.Image: Mark Mitchell, Flickr.
So what ranks in at number one? Image: radziu, Flickr.
Image: vickirainwater, Flickr. Experiencing device failureis the biggest distraction. It can cause us severe digital pain.
An incomingmobile phone call is next in terms ofimpact. Although they might be rare, they’re hard for us to ignore. Image: Trey Ratcliff, Flickr.
Romantic e-mails, text messages and tweets come next on the hierarchy. They capture our attention since they’re a form of contact with others and can make us feel appreciated.Image: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan, Flickr.
Regular, personale-mails, onlinedating messages,voicemails andSkype calls all fallin the middle groundof distraction. Calls on a landline are also on par with these types of interruptions which – while not the most exciting parts of our day – stillImage: *potato, the bad, Flickr. show us that we’re wanted.
Less immediate forms of contact, such as messages on Skype,Twitter and Facebook, have an even lower impact on us.Image: bia * alvarez, Flickr.
Image: David Klein, Flickr.If you use LinkedIn or MySpace, you’ll findupdates from these social media sites a relatively minor distraction. Also near the bottom are Facebook invites and friend requests, which are thought to receive mere automatic or reflex responses. Image: Mehfuz Hossain, Flickr.
Image: niovate, Flickr.Last and therefore least inthe hierarchy is any type of actual work.Does this theory then support the idea that constant connectivity is hurting our performance at school and in the workplace?
Technopanic in the Classroom While distracted students are nothing new, the increase in available avenues of stimulation could create a permanent shift in their ability to focus:Image: Wesley Fryer, Flickr.
Image: evaxebra, Flickr. “Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing. The worry is we’re raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently.” – Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health
Distractions in the Workplace Can Quickly Add UpMore than just young students are being affected by technological advancesand information at their fingertips:Source: survey conducted by Harmon.ie of 500 international organizations. “57% of work interruptions now involve either using collaboration and social tools like email, social networks, text messaging and IM, or switching windows among disparate Digital 45% of workers standalone tools and can only work distractions cause applications” workers to lose for 15 minutes or less approximately without one hour’s worth interruption. of productivity every day.
Desperate Times = Desperate Measures? Some schools and companies believeunwired lecture halls (or offices) and strict gadget bans are the answer for reclaiming wandering attention.
“We’re very seduced by the little red light onour BlackBerrys, by the ping that tells us we’ve got mail. We’re vulnerable to thatfeeling of being wanted and being connected,but we need some time to be alone.” - Sherry Turkle, author of “Alone Together”
Learning to manage digital distractions is becoming anecessary part of life.Image: rohaan2012, Flickr.The ability to balance your desires (or impulses) to checkin, update, or reply right away with the need to complete a task will be a very useful skill that’s going to become increasingly important.