Turn off technology; multitasking dangerous time-waster

It is easy to get lost in the never-ending rush that defines college life. Time seems sparse and does not allow for completing one task at a time. Multitasking has become a huge part of not only college life, but also the American culture, as well.Whether one talks on instant messenger while studying for a major exam or drives while talking on the cell phone, trying to juggle tasks so that everything crams into a microscopic schedule has become a huge fact of life.

While society tells us to go, go, go, I believe that sometimes we should just take a chill pill.

Even though most believe that multitasking is the most efficient way to get things done, the University of Michigan’s cognitive scientist David E. Meyer said he thinks differently.

“Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes,” he says. “Disruptions and interruptions are a bad deal from the standpoint of our ability to process information.”

Rene Marois, a neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University who studied efficiency of multitasking by using magnetic resonance imaging when giving subjects multiple tasks, found that of all the trillions of synaptic connectors and billions of neurons ready to give and receive information, the human capacity is limited by “an inability to concentrate on two things at once.”

Marois found that the average delay when one multitasks is about one second. That may not seem like much but, when it comes to operating heavy machinery or driving a car, that one second could be the difference between life or death.

In a survey by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., of 12,000 drivers, about 73 percent of them chatted away while behind the wheel. A study done by the University of Utah shows that driving while talking on the phone was the same as driving while intoxicated. Analysts at Basex, a firm of business research, believe that the American economy suffers a loss of nearly $600 billion from interruptions and multitasking in the workplace. A survey conducted by Basex shows that many workers believe that 28 percent of their time is devoted to distractions, such as e-mail during work, instant messaging and the recovery time required from those events. The about $600 billion-estimated loss is quite shocking.

One must wonder how that loss translates into coursework in college, whether it be studying for a test or doing some really tough math homework. D’s could turn into B’s if only shutting down the computer were possible. As this is the age of communication through technology, it becomes more and more difficult to stray away from devices that puts the world at our fingertips.

Limiting the checking of e-mail to once every two or three hours should help so that the “you’ve got mail” declaration will not stop the task at hand. Putting the cell phone on silent while driving will make it less tempting to pick up the phone when someone calls. Signing off instant messenger – not putting up an away message – will also decrease the amount of distraction causing loss of focus. Once the task is complete, one can fire up AIM, log on to Facebook and call that best friend.

People need to realize that while undertaking a task is time consuming, they can still access the world when the task is complete. If it were the end of the world or something, they would know it. Otherwise, poking a friend on Facebook can wait.

Hayley Freeman is a freshman English major from Fort Worth. Her column appears Wednesdays.