I’ve always hated multitasking. It’s not my style. Of course, every study that comes out says it’s not really anyone’s style and that it just extends the amount of time things take to complete, lessens the quality, etc., etc. I never saw a study with any positive result, really.
I remember being in a job interview when they asked if I was a good multitasker. Now, I should point out that I already decided at this point in the interview that this place wasn’t right for me, and I didn’t get the vibe that I was right for them, so may as well have fun in the interview, since they never just stop in the middle and cancel them, you finish the interview once it starts… so I told them that if they wanted me to, I could work inefficiently, pretend to juggle a lot of tasks at once, and give nothing the proper attention it deserves, if that’s how they wanted the work to be completed there. I even put that positive spin on it, that I was completely willing to work with whatever inefficiencies they wanted. I didn’t get the job (although I wasn’t going to anyway).
But lately, I’ve been trying to unitask as many things as possible, and it’s sort of difficult. Watching an episode of a TV show without playing Tetris or checking e-mail is the hardest. Some things, of course, are augmented by additional elements. Playing music at the gym, or listening to a podcast while cleaning the apartment or washing dishes, doesn’t really seem like a violation. I am switching to audio-only at the gym, though, as I think I work harder when I’m not watching a TV show on my iPod. I’d rather have a better workout and more media backlogged.
Another related experiment was at some recent concerts, where I tried to focus on the performers and not the jumbo screens showing them up close. So, the whole time I was at Outside Lands watching Pearl Jam, Black Eyed Peas, and others on the main stage, I tried to keep my focus on the stage. Same this week with Pink. It’s kind of interesting watching the crowd and seeing how many people crowd into an arena to essentially watch television. (Side note: It was a bit annoying at Outside Lands, when I noticed that the stage lights were rather dim, and that they seemed to be lighting everything for the video and not the actual concert… *sigh*)
I also think it’s funny how many people document experiences they aren’t having. I don’t know if I’ve written about it here before, but one of my favorite photos was of Madonna in concert, thrusting her hand out into the crowd, and no hand — not even one, as I remember it — from the audience reaching out to her, because everyone was holding up their cell phone to take a picture showing how close they were to Madonna. So, everyone has a photo capturing a moment they didn’t have. No one got to lock eyes with Madonna, share a brief moment, and maybe even shake her hand. Plus, Madonna looks out into a crowd of cyborgs, one eye squinting with the other behind a mobile phone, which ironically means the level of emotional detachment I thought she has as a live performer is finally being returned to her by the crowd. So, there is that ironic part of it. But still, why show your friends on Facebook how close you were to a missed opportunity?
I do think I’m running the risk of peeling off from some parts of society, as a result. I don’t really Twitter, because it’s really for mobile phone users (no matter what people say), and I barely have a mobile phone, and certainly not one with the Internet on it. Most of the time I’m out, it’s not. It sits charging on my microwave almost all the time. When there is necessary synchronization with friends, I take it, but it’s rare. I have a mobile phone so people can tell me they are running late for our dinner plans, more often than not. But, if I’m at the restaurant on time, and they’re not, this doesn’t seem to be a major use of technology. By the time I get their text message, I already know they’re running late, since they aren’t where I am at the time we were supposed to meet.
Even with reading my novel, I’ve been very careful to carve out time to read it properly. I’ve been seeing some theater this week, so I put it off, as I didn’t want to be in mid-novel and have Noel Coward or Rodgers and Hammerstein jump in and tell a whole story in the midst of my read. Same with television, when I read this draft, I won’t take in anything else with a narrative, not even a 30-minute sitcom.
So, I’m curious if this is a path toward enhancing the quality of the experiences that I’ll have with different media and events. Will some media not be interesting without other distractions going on? If so, it seems like I’m not missing anything if I knock them out of the queue entirely.
I don’t think this is a temporary thing, just the early stages of something new. We’ll see how it goes. I don’t think this makes me a Luddite. I have digested the new technology. I understand it. I see how it can fit into my life. And, after that investigation, I’ve chosen that my life is better without it.