Technology stunts a generation of attention spans

Sometimes I sit at the back of a lecture hall to look at what other students are doing on their computers as the professor explains the steps of cell respiration. Out of 200 screens, I’d estimate a breakdown of 20 percent each on Facebook, doing other homework, reading blogs and watching TV, another 10 percent shopping online, and the final 10 actually looking at the biology notes on Blackboard.

I’ve always prided myself on my attention span, but now that I have my own laptop, I find it harder and harder to focus on a lecture. After 30 minutes of taking biology notes, I usually decide I can be more productive if I check my email and start my philosophy essay while simultaneously absorbing the lecture.

My multitasking ambition is common among most students. College students overestimate their ability to multitask, which can lead to shallower and spottier learning, according to experts. A recent Carnegie Mellon study showed that people interrupted by technology scored 20 percent lower on a cognition test, and one from California State University-Dominguez Hills estimated that the average college student cannot concentrate for more than two minutes without breaking for technology and social media.

I may chuckle at the screens of my classmates every now and then, but our generation’s inability to focus is a serious problem. I can’t help but think that this inefficiency is fueled by new technology on the market, including, most recently, the Samsung Galaxy Gear SmartWatch. The Galaxy Gear is a simpler (and wearable) version of a touch screen smartphone. It can run a few apps, function as a camera, receive text messages, and, of course, tell time. I can only interpret its “Smart Freedom” slogan as another way of saying “freeing your hands from your smartphone so you can do five things at once instead of a mere three.”

With smartwatches strapped to our wrists, there would be no escaping the constant bombardment of notifications. What’s more, it seems like we as consumers have gotten so lazy that technology companies have decided to create a whole new market of wearable technology, just so we don’t have to take our phones out of our pockets or purses.

While a smartwatch is essentially a useless invention, there will nevertheless be tech-junkies, lazy-tech-users and ambitious multitaskers who will spend the $300 on the shiny wrist accessory anyway. While I don’t mean to put down anyone’s fashion choices, I certainly hope to warn them about the interference in studying, test taking, driving and any other concentrated activity.

Nayna Shah is a freshman majoring in music composition.

October 14, 2013


Nayna Shah

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