Reading and Multitasking in the Age of the Internet

I’m reading some of the best political commentary of the week- a think piece by Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone online, while elsewhere in my browser, a Facebook feed is providing tributes for an old friend, who has sadly passed away in a location far from here.
I read three paragraphs of the Taibbi column then check Twitter for various news updates. I return to the Taibbi and chuckle at his description of Republican presidential candidates attempting to out-Trump Donald Trump in Iowa.

I get an email notification from Ebay that funds are now available in my online account from a recent transaction. I pause to check the balance in that particular account. My cellphone blings with a text, which I read. No response necessary. Back to the column: It is written in bite sized paragraphs, easy to scan and absorb. Taibbi is suggesting that American politics have been turned upside down. The DVR reminds me that CNN’s ‘Reliable Sources’ has been recorded. I’ll check that soon for more evidence of ‘upside down’ American politics as reported by other media. On Twitter a stranger sends an odd flame my way. I glance at it then ignore. I return to the Taibbi column and complete it, enjoying his creative turns of phrase. The process has taken perhaps 35 minutes, and if I had strictly stayed with the column, it would probably have taken ten minutes. But I have multitasked, switching back and forth from browser to email, to cellphone. I achieved no great accomplishments during those 35 minutes but that’s how many of us read, now. In bits and pieces, between messages, cellphone notifications, distractions and updates. My attention was wide, but not deep, and the article was written to accommodate that. I think back to how I might have read the article 20 years ago, a magazine in my hand, comfortable in an easy chair. The whole thing from beginning to end, in ten minutes. Would I have enjoyed it more? For those with attention deficit disorder, the incoming distractions must be unnerving..either that or strangely soothing. When I need to focus, really focus for awhile, I disconnect. But Twitter, Facebook, email and the cellphones beckon. Do employers adjust for this? Can they and do they limit internet access at certain times of the day?
Would employees feel ‘data-deprived?’ You probably noticed I didn’t include a link to Taibbi’s article. I’m onto you. You’d leave this for that article in a heartbeat. But you can look it up. I’m sure you will. In between text messages, Instagram, and Snapchat.

OK, if you insist, here’s the Rolling Stone article:

James Aura is the author of ‘When Saigon Surrendered- a Kentucky Mystery’, an ebook available for all platforms online, including Amazon:

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated James Aura’s story.