Here’s your question today: True or False Your constant use of technology is training your brain to multitask, focusing well on many tasks at once
Let me know if these question ring true for you: do you have a hard time focusing on a single task? Do you have difficulty listening when one person is talking to you? Are you often distracted by peripheral stimuli, like a text message or social network alert? Does this distract you from what you are trying to focus on in the first place? Most of us would answer yes to these questions, wouldn’t we? These questions are the crux of the diagnostic criteria for ADHD!
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This diagnosis once applied to a few and has now become so commonplace, that the criteria seem to describe pretty much everyone. Your ability to focus, be still, have moments of boredom and moments of solitude are tied to your ability to perform optimally at a single task, and it is also crucial to your health and happiness.
I think we can all agree how wonderfully effective meditation is at teaching stillness and quieting the mind. This mindfulness practice does not teach you how to bounce your attention around like a Ping-Pong ball on table. The health benefits come from this learned ability to be present, without distractions.
How is it then that most of us answer yes to the questions regarding distraction? This culture of distraction did not happen overnight. This has become engrained in each of us as we have ridden the technology wave becoming more and more connected and distracted by technology and shifted away from interrupted quiet time and less and less connected to other people.
Let’s face it; we don’t have the healthiest relationship with technology. Using technology into the evening interrupts our sleep cycle, but we do it. One study showed that the more time a person spends on Facebook, the more dissatisfied they ultimately feel with their own life. This isn’t doing our mental health a service. We are subjected to constant distractions, checking email through our computers and smartphones, multiple browsers are open, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, text messages, Instagram, Pinterest, news, video games, watching stocks… this is only a fraction of what is distracting us throughout the day.
This is breeding a culture of people who are becoming increasingly distracted and less able to pay attention to anything for a reasonable length of time, let alone have the time and space to engage in deep, contemplative, perceptive thought. Think for a moment how connected you are to technology.
If the power goes out in my house, I still walk in the room and flip the light switch on. This is a habit that is so ingrained that I do it without thinking. Technology has had this same impact on us. You likely check for emails and text messages sometimes without even thinking about it. Have you ever wondered why your phone has been quiet for so long and checked it to see if it was on and the sound was up? Or your hand has reached for your phone to check it without any notification being heard?
Though you may feel like you are getting a lot of things accomplished or multi-tasking, many brain studies show that multi-tasking is a myth, and in reality you are just trying to do too many things at once and overloading your brain’s ability to concentrate. The answer to the question today is False: Your constant use of technology is not training your brain to multitask, focusing well on many tasks at once.
This constant distraction is making it difficult for us to connect with other people — including our families. Research studies have looked at families in restaurants to observe if a device is used, how often and the effect on the amount of conversation. These studies showed that over 65% of adults either checked a device constantly or pulled it out at the end of the meal and those families who did not engage a social device, engaged each other in more conversation.
Now, sometimes when I look at a study I think, REALLYY? We needed a study to show this? I think we all know that this is happening BUT do we realize how often it is happening? How often we grab our device out of habit ‘just to check it’…’just to stay informed.’ Do we realize the impact of this distraction on our health and the impact on our families as well?
Just last weekend we had my brother in law over for a barbeque. I went inside to grab some refreshments, which took about ten minutes, and when I looked out they were both standing in separate spots on the desk checking their smartphones while our 4 ½ year old daughter stood silently between then looking back and forth at them. It was one of those REALLYY?? Moments! These two brothers are best friends and he hadn’t seen his niece in a month and this is how they are spending their time, staring at a screen.
The fact that the phrase ‘digital detox’ has become part of our vernacular and made its way into the Oxford Dictionary last year is proof that many of us would benefit from a weekend unplugged. Disconnecting technology can help you reconnect to your life.
Let’s Do a Digital Detox!
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Each year I do a digital detox on the two main three day weekends, over Memorial Day and Labor Day. Join me over the Memorial Day weekend May 24-26 (Saturday – Monday) for a digital detox. Your goal is to unplug entirely for a 48 hour period and to minimize technology on the remaining day. If you would like to unplug for three days straight, I highly recommend it! I am going to unplug for three days straight and I would love you to join me!
Here is what you need to know to prepare for the weekend:
It is highly likely that you will go through a bit of withdrawal from technology. You may feel your hand twitch to check a phone that isn’t there. You may hear a phantom phone alert that never went off. Embrace this discomfort. This is simply a sign of just how physically connected you have become to technology. This shift is part of the process. This usually dissipates within the first day.
Yes, you want to be in the moment and yes it is a good idea to plan a few Zen moments as well. Go for a walk with friends, take a bath, read a book (paperback, not on a device), journal, write, meditate and spend some time with family and friends. See if you notice how much more complete the conversations are without the constant interruption of checking a device.
Let everyone know that you are going to do a digital detox so they can give you some space and they don’t worry when they don’t see you chime in on a post. You might even see if they will join you in the process!
The goal is to simply have an experience, to slow down, recharge and reconnect with yourself and others.
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