Multi-tasking and Globe-trotting: One and the same?

Today I read a couple of different articles and was troubled by the sense of not making much of myself. I became worried that my teaching skills are, in deed, lacking, that I’m not progressing as much as I should with my French, and that I have no idea what the hell I am doing next in my life (mostly the latter deals with career aspirations but also with where in the world I will land as well). After reading one article in particular, maybe I can attribute some of this negative energy to technology. Let me see if I can successfully put technology on trial, but first, I want to talk about my current predicament.

I’ve recently been thinking about how much I move around and how much I change employment and I have been thinking during the last several weeks a lot about what I’m going to do after my time here in Guadeloupe. This notion of decision-making, followed by recurrent change, and subsequent adjustment time has been really wearing on me. Maybe I just need to relax a little and enjoy the sunshine (which is something I should do, regardless). It turns out, however, that I think that this constant need for changing environments, jobs, cultures, languages, might be somewhat related to a problem that the world is facing now with technology and the way that we constantly multi-task. This is not news to anyone, let alone me, but that does not change the fact that I am a victim. Let me explain a bit about what I am trying to say.

First of all, an article I read today that a friend forwarded me that talks about the fact that modern technology, like the internet and social media forums, has a profound effect on our ability to concentrate. In fact, our constant need to check different sources like our email, FB, Twitter, and Instagram is related to a real addiction:

Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking. Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation.

Yes, I concur. Even just reading this article I found myself switching from texting friends, answering a few emails, and checking Facebook, and WhatsApp because notifications had popped up and I knew that I needed to respond. Multi-tasking is addicting because every time I see that I have a new communication from someone, it feels good. At first I thought that this just meant that I was becoming more social, more connected with people, more connected with the world in general. But really, I find that this is not the case at all. As it turns out, it’s even been difficult to stay concentrated on something that really gives me a lot of pleasure, like yoga or swimming, because I’m constantly thinking about the next lesson plan that I need to create or the next email that I need to write or the next Instagram picture I’m going to post. No good.

What’s more, Glenn Wilson, one of the professors who has researched the concept called info-mania, has said that even marijuana has a lesser effect on our concentration and memory loss than muti-tasking does:

[Glenn Wilson’s] research found that being in a situation where you are trying to concentrate on a task, and an email is sitting unread in your inbox, can reduce your effective IQ by 10 points. And although people ascribe many benefits to marijuana, including enhanced creativity and reduced pain and stress, it is well documented that its chief ingredient, cannabinol, activates dedicated cannabinol receptors in the brain and interferes profoundly with memory and with our ability to concentrate on several things at once. Wilson showed that the cognitive losses from multitasking are even greater than the cognitive losses from pot‑smoking.

Let me compare this addiction of info-mania with what I am experiencing right now with my struggle for the future. If anyone knows me at this point in my life, or at any point, really, they will know that I have been struggling with being present. In my defense, I’ve found it really difficult to be present when I am constantly on the move and always looking at what I should be doing next, since for the last several years my projects have been rather short-lived (i.e. first my Master’s program which was always burdened by the pressure of finding employment and a way to pay my way through grad school; second, my too-short yet sweet sojourn in Argentina followed by my return to the Bay for yet another short period of time; and finally, here in Guadeloupe, a stay that will last only until the end of April with the possibility of remaining until my visa expires in June). En fin, I think my life is a bit riddled with multi-tasking that has crossed over from the realm of technology to that of real life.

So, my solution? Well, first of all I’m going to ease my way out of this addiction by smoking more cannabis and using less technology. I’ll let you know how that goes! In the meantime, however, one thing at a time. Something else to add to my list of New Year’s resolutions.