Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Curse of Hyperconnectivity

Here's an article with some provocative cautionary remarks about multitasking and constant accessibility:

Creative Kryptonite

Hypotheses advanced by this author, Jonathan Fields: (1) Performing innumerable little tasks throughout the day gives the illusion of productivity through "busy-ness" but interferes with the real thing because these micro-tasks—reading and sometimes answering all the news bites and messages as they come along—fill the gaps that used to allow space for creative rumination. (2) The allure of intermittent reinforcement: Responding to the ringtone of the cell phone or the ding of incoming e-mail rewards the brain on a neuro-chemical level with constant dollops of positive reinforcement, "dopamine squirts" as he labels them. People used to this constant access can suffer literal physiological withdrawal when cut off from their electronic connections. (3) These frequent incoming demands on the user's attention open "loops" that never get satisfactorily closed, because a new iteration of the loop is continually being opened.

I use my cell phone only to make outgoing calls, a rather infrequent occurrence. I never keep it on unless I've made a specific agreement with someone to be available for a call at a designated time. I don't know how to text. And I don't work on writing projects and go on the Internet at the same time, so I never switch back and forth from my document file to answer the "you've got mail" ding. However, I notice my type is turning into a minority group. Fields makes some ominously plausible points. As a slow writer anyway, too prone to seizing any excuse to wander off task, I am glad I don't pursue the will-o-the-wisp of constant connectivity; that behavior would make me even slower to finish stuff. Would a fast, high-energy writer be able to handle the snares of intermittent reinforcement and infinitely opening loops better? Here's much worth pondering!

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt


  1. I set limits for myself, and a schedule. So much time allotted to blogging, so much for intensive writing, so much for family time, etc. I use Twitter as a fill-in for moments of boredom or when I need a little humour/uplift. My phone is a basic pre-paid Tracphone for emergency calls/texts. So far, I think I've kept things under control, although I have gotten occasional remarks about being unapproachable, insular, and backward :)

  2. Time management is very important. I, myself would procrastinate sometimes. But I would have the difficulty of compensating for the time that was lost.