Saturday, January 09, 2016

Living in an ADHD World


Our whole society seems to have Attention Deficit Disorder. People can’t just focus on one thing at a time. Live-tweeting by cast members and fans while a television show is airing has become a “thing.” You go out to dinner, and people prop up their cell phones on the table, paying more attention to text messages and tweets and Facebook than the people they’re sharing a meal with. If you question them, they say they’re “multitasking.”

I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but there’s really no such thing as multitasking. The brain can only focus on one thing at a time. What people call multitasking is actually switching between one thing and another thing, sometimes as many as four or five things, in succession, not doing several things simultaneously.



There are multiple studies proving this, so many I had a hard time picking a limited number of articles to link to. See http://www.npr.org/2013/05/10/182861382/the-myth-of-multitasking , https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creativity-without-borders/201405/the-myth-multitasking , http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/the-myth-of-multitasking/6743356 .

I was dismayed when, while watching a program on the local public television station, the bottom of the screen displayed those annoying pop-up and animated messages just like the commercial stations have been using for years. If you’re watching those bottom-of-the-screen promos, you’re not focusing on the program they’re running now. I miss dialogue or plot points in the current program because they’re so eager to make sure you know what the next program is going to be. Which is why I’ve mostly stopped watching commercial television. I stream Netflix or Amazon Prime Video so I can focus on the story I’ve decided to watch.

There’s a phenomenon known as enhanced ebooks where, in addition to the text, the author can add embedded videos, links to other content, and background music. When I’m reading, I like to be immersed in the story. A good story develops a link between the text and my brain, and it’s hard to tell where more of the story is taking place. With distractions like videos and music, I can’t get the same level of immersion. My brain is busy jumping around from one thing to the other.

This week I was scratching my head as I read a message from the pastor in the church newsletter. The topic was spreading the word about the church in order to attract others to it. And, right in the middle of his list there was the suggestion to send messages to Twitter and/or Facebook about being in church and what you were doing at the moment. Let your Facebook friends know you were listening to the sermon and ask them what they were doing now.

So, instead of paying attention to the message in the sermon or singing the hymns or praise music, you’re focused on social media. Chances are there will be cat videos to watch on Facebook or retweets of another author’s free book promotion, neither of which have anything to do with worship.

When I questioned that tactic, a member of the Bible study group said in his son’s church, the members of the congregation text questions to the pastor about the sermon during the service. And my pastor said this social media involvement is being done in churches all over and he’s one of the last to promote the practice.

I hate this “Squirrel!” mentality. I find the whole jumping from one thing to another and back again stressful. Instead of absorbing and enjoying one thing at a time, there’s a whole catch-up thing my brain has to do when it switches from one task to another. It’s not just me. That’s the way the brain works. Only most people accept this new method as normal.

I refuse to play. I’ll read books as straight text on my ereader and in paper form. I’ll watch movies without commercials. And I am definitely not going to tweet in church.

Photo Credit:
Squirrel:File:2011.06.19 gray squirrel, Kensington Gardens, London, UK 008cc via wikimediacommons.org
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