A friend of mine and I had a discussion recently on the miracle of multi-tasking. It started off with some droll comment about the pop-psych notion that women are better at it than men. Then we got onto larger questions. Is this a myth or a fact? Are human beings truly capable of it at all? What does it mean anyway?

A few days later he sent me links to some interesting web articles on multi-tasking. I would like to share these with you.

The first is called The Multi-Tasking virus. It tells the story of the author at college, sitting in on a lecture by an inspirational teacher, touching on some of the most profound issues of life. The author looks around him. What he sees shocks him. The rest of the students are sitting

cruising Facebook, checking out the NY Times, editing photo collections, texting, reading People Magazine, shopping for jeans, dresses, sweaters, and shoes on Ebay, Urban Outfitters and J. Crew, reorganizing their social calendars, emailing on Gmail and AOL, playing solitaire, doing homework for other classes, chatting on AIM, and buying tickets on Expedia.

This is depressing.

When challenged, the students justified this behavior by their alleged ability to multi-task. They could, they claimed, take in all the lecturer had to say and carry out these other activities too. Really? Well I suppose that explains why we ‘re a generation of mini Einsteins, right?

The second article is entitled Is Google Making Us Stupid?. Its thrust is that the internet has altered our ability to think deep, reflect, and concentrate long. We are a generation of skimmers, replacing reflective reading with ‘power browsing ‘. We have become, in a phrase, a generation of pancake people ‘spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button. ‘

I think that ‘multi-tasking ‘ is a myth that has been used to: (1) patronise women; and, (2) allow a generation of young people believe they ‘re clever because they know how to use a mobile phone, even though they can ‘t finish a book unless it ‘s in comic form.

My friend is still thinking about it.

Good for him.