For the younger generation of multitaskers, the great electronic din is an expected part of everyday life. And given what neuroscience and anecdotal evidence have shown us, this state of constant intentional self-distraction could well be of profound detriment to individual and cultural well-being. When people do their work only in the “interstices of their mind-wandering,” with crumbs of attention rationed out among many competing tasks, their culture may gain in information, but it will surely weaken in wisdom.
Perhaps I have fallen into the same trap I’ve been warning people about. Perhaps I’ve been multitasking too much, shallow-reading too much, focusing too little to be able to articulate in written words what I feel I know. George Siemens warns us, “I wonder if the criticism of multitasking isn't partly misplaced...i.e. perhaps we just have much more noise in our world today (video games, TV, podcasts, blogs, youtube) and the key task is one of knowing when to experience multiple information sources and when to focus.” But how can we tell the difference between noise and real learning opportunities when we are constantly being told that everything in life, such as chatting with friends, watching Big Brother, taking and sharing pictures, checking Twitter to find what other people are doing—huh???, etc., all represents real learning opportunities? Perhaps I’m too old to be able to decide when to give my divided attention or when to focus, unless I focus to figure that out.