Using a series of utterly impenetrable graphs, the BBC News website is reporting today that Britons spend half their waking lives somehow tinkering with tech:
The statistics from regulator Ofcom suggest people in the UK spend seven hours a day watching TV, surfing the net and using their mobile phones.
However, the average person actually squeezes in the equivalent of nearly nine hours of media and communications by multi-tasking on several devices.
How this could come as a surprise to anyone who has… well, ever met another person, is beyond me. We’ve been growing more adept at multitasking, both in our work and home lives–particularly as more and more resources are available online. Perhaps this is the upside of those concerned news stories a while back which told us that we were essentially turning our brains to mush (with an attention span to match) with all the information we were plugging into them: we’re getting better at doing two, or three, or even four things at once.
Of course, if you’re multitasking, you can’t devote as much time or attention to one thing as you would if you were tackling it in a more linear way–and I agree that this may not always be a good thing: I’d be worried, for example, if a brain surgeon started tweeting while he was in theatre (partly because, if nothing else, it’d be damn unhygienic). And yes, sometimes you do need to be able to focus and to analyse– I remember being taught to speed-read at school, so perhaps it’s time children were instead taught to “deep read”?
If nothing else, the report seems to back up what Marshall McLuhan said all along; that the medium really is the message. But does it surprise me–sitting here at a Macbook (which has tabs open to WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, the BBC News site and details of a publisher’s call for submissions), next to my Blackberry, with Radio 4 on in the background…
What do you think?