Constant Contact Is Bad for Your Health
David E. Meyer, Ph.D, is a professor of psychology, Cognition and Perception Program, University of Michigan.
The emerging phenomenon of social-networking technologies like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube creates lots of inherent, unavoidable, potentially problematic tradeoffs. While these new media foster more personal communication, they also encourage excessive, addictive, counterproductive multitasking.
Constant access to email, cellphones, Twitter, and so forth entices people to intersperse their use of such tools with other important tasks that demand attention and concentration — like reading and
composing complex documents, holding meaningful conversations, or thinking and planning life’s activities. For lots of people, these tools have no boundaries.
They’re being used everywhere — at corporate meetings, during driving, and while cooking dinner. At the same time, recent research has shown that such multitasking is often extremely inefficient and can actually be dangerous to your health.
Frequent “flitting” back and forth between various complex tasks may increase the total amount of time taken to complete all of them by 100 percent or more, and many more errors are likely to occur along the way.
Excessive multitasking can lead to chronic stress, with potential damage to the cardiovascular, immune, and nervous systems. Fatal accidents are more likely too. Nobody, not even the inveterate multitasker, is completely invulnerable to these effects. There is also an increased chance that people, especially the young, may not develop the ability to concentrate on important tasks for long periods of time, or may lose that ability for lack of practice. Had Einstein multitasked incessantly, most likely he would never have invented the Theory of Relativity.
The bottom line is: We have to learn when and where multitasked social networking media actually help us carry out our daily tasks rather than interfering with them. Because these media are ubiquitous, tempting and potentially addictive, we must strive to manage them better than we do now.