Multitasking can be both essential and dangerous

Studies have shown that multitasking can hinder a person’s short term memory.

By Benjamin Moy

For college students, multitasking may seem like the only way to get by, especially during the end of a semester. With final projects piling up and social lives that refuse to slow down, students find themselves trying to do as many things as they can at once. This may not be as good an idea as it seems, however.

Studies from Stanford University go as far as to suggest that multitasking can impair a person’s cognitive control, or the ability to allow behavior to vary from moment to moment. According to the research, people who are distracted by a variety of things cannot pay attention or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.

Despite all of the research, though, multitasking is still a normal practice.

R.J. Barkelew, a senior at Rider, often finds himself doing multiple things at once.

“When I was working on one of my film projects, I was listening to music for inspirational purposes, as well as looking things up online and trying to type up my game plan,” he said.

Barkelew believes that multitasking has become second nature.

“It took a little while, but I think the other things, outside of just working on the project, kind of help put it all together,” he said. “I think that kind of depends on what you’re doing at the time.”

Another senior, Howard Spaeth, said he has been multitasking for such a long time that it has become a natural habit. He cannot sit down and watch TV without checking his Blackberry for new messages, nor can he walk to class without having his headphones in his ears and his cell phone in his hand.

New technology represents the importance of multitasking in the modern world, especially for the younger generation. Spaeth is an example of the demographic of people who juggle multiple activities at once.

“One time I had Skype, Facebook and the Yankee game open [on my computer],” he said. “What I did was minimize the windows, and had them all throughout the screen. It made my mind go crazy, but it was well worth it and made night class go a lot quicker.”

According to a study done by Ohio State University which focused on the correlation between social networking sites and a lower GPA, Facebook users typically had GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5, while non-users had GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0. Studying habits also appeared to be affected, with Facebook users studying from one to five hours a week and non-users studying a total of 11 to 15 hours per week.

Senior Mike Falco agreed with the findings and said he saw a positive change in his grades after he deleted his Facebook.

“Facebook was really distracting for me,” Falco said. “Whenever I found myself doing homework I was tempted to just go on Facebook because the website is such an easy distraction. It’s so accessible and the primary reason I got rid of it was because it really wasn’t serving me any good. [Deleting it] has helped me academically, I think.”

Multitasking is not for everyone, but college kids do seem to find it beneficial most of the time.

“I think it depends on how comfortable you are with it,” Falco said. “It’s kind of hard to do, but when you are in college you kind of have to be trained to handle multiple things at once. After you adapt to the college experience, it’s actually kind of easy to focus your time on three things at once.”

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