It’s the multitasking, stupid

March 29, 2007, 11:36 PM UTC

I am tired. There are about 16 things I wanted to write about today, but looking at the list — which included a little pop culture meditation about how I’m not sad for Paris Hilton and how I never again want to hear Kelly Clarkson — I realized I was feeling a tad more cranky than creative. So I’m going to save that for tomorrow.

Why the crankiness, though? I don’t think I’ve had a good night’s sleep in weeks. Just a few weeks ago, according to BBC News, a man in Cornwall set out to break the Guiness World Record of 264 hours without sleep. “During the record attempt, Mr. Wright noticed his speech becoming incomprehensible at times and colo During the record attempt, Mr Wright noticed his speech becoming incomprehensible at times and colours appearing very bright.While the Wikipedia entry on sleep pointed me to a BBC story about a guy who hadn’t After deciding that The New York Times’ recent multitasking story was cool, but not quite cool enough for us, I spent all of yesterday at a photoshoot where it was the talk of the studio. So I stand corrected. Even though it might seem pretty obvious that you can’t check e-mail, listen to songs, talk on the phone and write a coherent paragraph, it does help to have some research to back it up.

The most interesting part, besides the edgy photographs of multitaskers living dangerously in Times Square, might be the finding that, when trying to perform a given task and juggling multiple interruptions from technology, 18-21’s had the same speed and accuracy as 35-39’s. (Uninterrupted, the younger group did 10% better.) So we’re not, in fact, better at multitasking. But it appears to be a much bigger part of our lives, because of all our IMing and iTunesing and text-messaging. Does that mean that by living the wired life, we’re actually squandering the natural advantage our youth gives us? Maybe. I know the first time I tested my brain age, I was somewhere in the high 30’s until I got annoyed enough to turn off my music and the TV. But then again, maybe it’s a fair trade for the happiness of torturing your friends all day on Google Chat…