TV and Multitasking

200429986-001Did you know that “we” now sit with both computer and smartphone while watching TV? Apparently people are so used to multitasking that they no longer get above the sensory threshold of stimulation when they’re watching TV alone. That’s very sad news.

The research mentioned here has become big news in the advertising and marketing business. TV companies now act on this and are working their hardest on coming up with new commercial content, in hopes that it will keep the watcher glued to the TV

People’s attention spans are running out of control.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of the book Flow, writes:

Unless a person knows how to give order to his or her thoughts, attention will be attracted to whatever is most problematic at the moment: it will focus on some real or imaginary pain, on recent grudges or long-term frustrations. Entropy is the normal state of consciousness—a condition that is neither useful nor enjoyable.

To avoid this condition, people are naturally eager to fill their minds with whatever information is readily available, as long as it distracts attention from turning inward and dwelling on negative feelings. This explains why such a huge proportion of time is invested in watching television, despite the fact that it is very rarely enjoyed. Compared to other sources of stimulation—like reading, talking to other people, or working on a hobby—TV can provide continuous and easily accessible information that will structure the viewer’s attention, at a very low cost in terms of the psychic energy that needs to be invested.

The ultimate test for the ability to control the quality of experience is what a person does in solitude, with no external demands to give structure to attention. It is relatively easy to become involved with a job, to enjoy the company of friends, to be entertained in a theater or at a concert. But what happens when we are left to our own devices? Alone, when the dark night of the soul descends, are we forced into frantic attempts to distract the mind from its coming? Or are we able to take on activities that are not only enjoyable, but make the self grow?

What happens, you ask, Mihaly?

People watch TV, text on the smartphones and browse Facebook on their laptops.

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  1. Martial arts are seen as expressions of valor, chivalry, and self-sacrifice.
    R. Carter Hargrave is the primary instructor and president of the World Jeet Kune Do Foundation
    and the World Kempo Association.

  2. God.. This is horrible.
    I don’t want to be a negative person, but news/trends like this really disgust me, especially since I myself know that I do this too from time to time, though maybe not as extreme as what you talk about here.

    I shouldn’t be reading this sort of stuff! :O

  3. It’s true. I admit that I do this sometimes. Also, thanks for visiting my blog.

  4. Thanks for visiting my blog. The view you shared is, for me, horrifying. The supposition that we can no longer focus exclusively on one thing at a time is, unsettling. I, personally, would find it distracting to be unable to focus, particularly on my novels which I am addicted to. Similarly with a good film – but what is a good film? Definitely a post to stimulate thought. Thanks. Susan

    • Hello Susan, thank you for the comment.

      I agree, I am horrified by it myself as I am seeing what it does to my generation and the kids growing up nowadays and in the future. I have ‘normalized’ my brain’s reward system for the last year or so and seen a lot of difference. My focus is a lot better and I feel for the most part much more satisfied. Of course I watch a movie or television series every once in a while, but not even close to doing it on a daily basis.

      I am not sure how to interpret your question regarding ‘what is a good film?’, is it rhetorical perhaps? :P Otherwise I would recommend you check my post of interesting movies, I have quite a few proposals there from my movie watching days back when I was passionate about that.

      • Yes, the question “What is a good film” was rhetorical since we each have our own tastes and value systems and will therefore be drawn to different messages films contain. It could be an entire discussion post which would go on and on. I do feel that films give us a window into how society are thinking… although they are also swayed by the mass marketing which is employed.
        I’m relieved I can make up my own mind about these things. Cheers Susan

        • Hehe.

          Yeah, I think that (successful) art throughout history has been a somewhat accurate depiction of contemporary society. If people cannot believe in the story (movie, play, game, book, etc) they will not be interested in it.

          On the flipside, the art that is most closely adapted to ‘reality’ seldom sells well, because people want the cool illusion of how life is supposed to look – what I call hyperreality – not the real version. I recently read a book called THE SUMMING UP by Somerset Maugham in which he speaks about a lot of these things.

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