Naoimi Baron studied 158 students while messaging, and found that 98% were multitasking , with 70% web browsing, 48% other media, 39% writing a paper, 41% face-to-face conversation, 37% eating/drinking, 39% watching TV and 22% on the telephone. Always on, always connected? Not really. Multitaskers filter, block, ignore and bring activities and conversations to foreground and background.
Messaging and multitasking
Messaging conversations range from 1 to 12, with an average 2.67 simultaneously. Interestingly, few would message while doing nothing else. This was regarded as weird. Messaging was a ‘background’ activity.
Multitasking impairs learning
OK, so we know they’re all at it, but what about the effect this has on their learning. Most studies show that multitasking impairs performance, for example with homework (Koolstra, Van der Voort 2003). Even switching between tasks impairs performance (Rubenstein, Meyer and Evans 2001). In fact multitasking itself is a bit of a myth as we largely switch between tasks, rather than doing them truly in parallel. So don't imagine that all of this social networking is helping people learn in the way we think they should be learning. On the other hand they may be learning skills that are far more useful - handling information, communication and people skills.
Multitasking adds hours
The real advantage of all this technology is time saving, not learning. Time diaries (Keynon and Lyons 2005) have shown that people can add seven hours of activity to their day. They have shown that people can add seven hours of activity to their day. Multitasking is very common with people reporting 2 or more activities reported on 99% of days ,3 or more activities on 81% of days and 4 activities on 52% of days . Remarkably, multitasking ‘adds’ 48 hours to the average week and 46% more time to each waking day . Note that effects of multitasking are likely to be unequally distributed across society. Some of us multitask a lot more than others.