In order to set up a “small informal test” to see what happens to an individual’s attention in the space of multiple media platforms, I kept it quite simple and informal. As you asked me to 😉
Now, I may sound like a typical nagging girlfriend, but my boyfriend cannot multitask to save his life. For instance, if he’s on his phone, scrolling through Facebook and I say his name, “Abel”… “Abel”… “Abel. Abel. Abel. Abel.” And then, to be honest, I usually end up smacking the phone out of his hand or pull his ear. Once his eyes are in focus, and his brain is occupied, it’s like his ears switch off. And that’s just with one media platform in front of him, with me to distract, or vice versa. In order to test his levels of focus/distraction around more than one form of technology, we sat down to watch a movie, with our phones sitting next to us. I merely took note of the amount of times Abel picked up his phone– and then what he did with it.
Within the first 45 minutes of the movie, he picked his phone up twice. Once, to read a message he received from a friend, which he didn’t reply to. And second, to scroll through Facebook. He clicked to watch a ‘funny’ video– I slapped the phone out of his hand (informal test indeed). Other than that, the only time I saw him glance at his phone was during a lull or boring part in the film– and whatever the distraction, it never lasted too long. However, this test was undertaken during a fairly riveting and engaging film. Had it been a movie we had either watched before or didn’t grab our attention, I am sure Abel (and myself) would have found ourselves more easily distracted. All of that aside, if our mobile phones were not with us and we had left them in another room, we would only be distracted by ourselves.
After watching the commercial from Thailand about “disconnecting to connect”, it’s so easy to understand how we become so absorbed by our phones, by the cyber world, but there’s a time and a place. Learning to be ‘present’ with ourselves, the people around us, and the environment we’re in, is beneficial in so many ways– learning to focus in decreases the height of mental illnesses. While using our phones or tablets can be a great way for communication, it cuts us off from what is real and becomes a major, controlling distraction.