Multitasking and Manners

There is only the here and now, is the positive refrain for us to live in the present. Rather than being a prisoner of the past, or distracted with things yet to be, the idea is to give whatever you are doing your full attention. As such your focus is sharper, productivity increases, and your mental health better because multitasking even if done well is stressful.

There is perhaps a more important reason – consideration for those around you. That is the focus of the article by Daniel Gulati Multitasking’s Real Victims. My own experience was hosting a film night, specifically for a friend that had never seen an Al Pacino film. Those of us that had suggested “Scarface” was a good introduction. However for the whole of the film night the uninitiated Pacino friend was on his smartphone texting on social media.

During sexual intercourse, even with a hands free set, no one would dream of calling someone or dictating a Facebook update status. Why should that be different for social intercourse?


There is however a crucial difference regarding intended shared experiences and choosing to do something else. Those old days, when there was only one television in the house and the VCR remote control had a lead connected to the VCR, there really was no other option. Now living standards mean majority have not only several TVs, but devices which mean you can watch something else even while in the same room.

Which brings me to when The Hallowed Crown – Shakespeare’s Henry IV part one and two, and Henry V three were being dramatised by the BBC. In the household there was a difference of opinion what to watch, and it was the last day on iPlayer to watch part one. I explained this, and said I would watch on the iPad having really looked forward to the series yet too busy looking after my disabled brother to watch when live. This led to accusations of my being rude. Neither of us could be in different rooms; “physical disengagement” as suggested in the blog above. I was looking after my brother who was sleeping off a seizure so needed to be next door, and she wanted to watch the TV programme live in the comfort of the lounge.

It does come down to perspective and the situation. If you are at a meeting or at a party that is where your concentration should be, not hypnotised to the screen of your smart phone. Respect for the host and courtesy to those attending would be good manners. Multitasking is not just in the digital age; people read a newspaper while having the radio on; and I remember as a kid being ignored while parents were immersed in print media. What multi media does is allow even more multi tasking. New tablets/smart phones boast the ability to see different apps live – so you can see Facebook status updates while watching a youtube video, and getting a newsfeed from CNN. All from the same screen. As such you see this in the younger generation more.

Yet notifications mean you don’t have to keep watching. You can be told when something that you really want to keep an eye on happens. You could even give someone a heads up. “I’m trying to get something on eBay which will be a great Christmas present. I’m watching the bids so please excuse me if I attend to my phone when it goes off.” Context could be all the difference between an irate friend and one that now understands what is happening.

While writing this blog I received a notification from Twitter regarding my cousin’s theatre company @HotCoalsTheatre. “The first production will be #Trapped, a devised piece exploring being trapped by [your] own body.”

The key is not to be trapped by your multimedia multitasking equipment. They are great communication devices. Just don’t use them at the expense of the person right in front of you. Or enjoying what is happening beyond your finger tips. We do not get to live this life again.

UPDATE: seems topical. After posting Time just tweeted on Multitasking and being distracted in the digital age.

Follow On Blog: I share therefore I am [TED talk on consequences of being constantly connected]

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog


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