Linda Stone has coined the term "Continuous Partial Attention" to describe the way iPod, cellphone, BlackBerry, Instant Messaging, voice mail, etc. addicts relate to the world. An article by Steven Levy captures her use of the term pretty amusingly.
Given all the discussion about ADHD, I'm wondering what everyone thinks about this phenomenon.
As I have explained in the past, I cannot multi-task. I would secretly doubt whether anyone can, but I have known women who multi-task efficiently and very completely. They are fun to watch, because they cannot *not* multi-task. I know a woman who gets lost in phone conversations if she is not playing a computer game at the same time. Get hearts up on the screen, and she converses much better.
I'm also not talking about driving and talking on the cell phone. (If anyone tells me to stop driving while playing the harmonica, they will be ignored.) Sure, that's a problem, but it's not personal until the accident.
I'm talking about people who try to IM 3 people at the same time as carrying on a phone conversation, while holding up their finger keeping me from leaving until they are done. I would much rather just go away and come back when they want to talk to me, except that blissful moment will probably never come. If talking to me means not talking to everyone else at the same time, I will never get their time.
What about BlackBerries in meetings? (I am getting worse about that one.) Taking a call in the middle of a conversation? (We once had a kid over for breakfast who ignored all calls while at the table. Very cool!) Email and IM while writing anything complex?
Here's my take.
We seem to want to stay electronically connected with a broad base of people, and are willing to sacrifice real connection to the people we're with to have the virtual connections. We hurt the people reading our faces in order to merely pacify the people who make up our personal networks. (I also think the root sin here is emotional laziness, but then I think everything boils down to laziness somehow.)
(says the blogger.)