The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Thomas Benton is worried about today’s kids and declining levels of respect for academic excellence. In his review of a series of recent books about related subjects, he quotes author Naomi Baron favorably, lamenting the rise of multi-tasking:
Worst of all, the prevalence of multi-tasking — of always being partly distracted, doing several things at once — has diminished the quality of our thought, reflection, self-expression, and even, surprisingly, our productivity. Baron’s solution is to turn off the distractions and focus on the task and people at hand.
Benton’s conclusion is less critical of technology, but it got me to thinking about how often I get interrupted while at work. I had my email program set to check for mail every 10 minutes, and alert me with the least annoying but still attention-getting sound I could find in my operating system’s sound file library.
Is that too often? How about you? Take this poll by selecting the time that best fits with your habits. If you don’t have a local email program set to automatically check and alert you, how often you do manually check your mail on a typical day?
Of course, dialing down the distraction frequency won’t be much about the assault on thought in general. Benton summarizes Susan Jacoby’s list of culprits, as found in her new book, The Age of American Unreason thusly:
junk science, fundamentalism, celebrity-obsessed media, identity politics, urban-gang culture, political correctness, declining academic standards, moral relativism, political pandering, and the weakening of investigative journalism, among other factors.
But I’m going to do my bit and change the email checking frequency to 30 minutes.