Death by Information Overload by Paul Hemp

Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist and expert on attention-deficit disorders, argues that the modern workplace induces what he calls “attention deficit trait,” with characteristics similar to those of the genetically based disorder. Author Linda Stone, who coined the term “continuous partial attention” to describe the mental state of today’s knowledge workers, says she’s now noticing—get this—“e-mail apnea”: the unconscious suspension of regular and steady breathing when people tackle their e-mail.

There are even claims that the relentless cascade of information lowers people’s intelligence. A few years ago, a study commissioned by Hewlett-Packard reported that the IQ scores of knowledge workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls fell from their normal level by an average of 10 points—twice the decline recorded for those smoking marijuana, several commentators wryly noted.

I read somewhere once that multitasking is a lie. That it is no more than the appearance of doing multiple things at once by actually doing small chunks of multiple things in sequence. Email, Facebook pokes, chats and tweets are all interruptions to our ability to focus on the task at hand.

But this is just weird – though by no means unexpected:

Of course, not everyone feels overwhelmed by the torrent of information. Some are stimulated by it. But that raises the specter of…[cue scary music]…information addiction. According to a 2008 AOL survey of 4,000 e-mail users in the United States, 46% were “hooked” on e-mail. Nearly 60% of everyone surveyed checked e-mail in the bathroom, 15% checked it in church, and 11% had hidden the fact that they were checking it from a spouse or other family member.

See also my previous post:Twittering and short-term thinking

Thanks to Tanneke Zeeuw for this link.