Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, had a difficult challenge for the students in her honors seminar on the psychology of technology: Go a full day without texting, tweeting, posting on Facebook or otherwise surfing the Web.
Of the 31 people in the class, only 14 made it. One student failed first thing in the morning when he started his day the usual way, checking his e-mail. Another lasted until the afternoon, when she was stuck in a long, slow-moving line (“Angry Birds” was also on the “don’t” list).
Next, students observed how others use technology. They concluded that multitasking is a myth: Almost everyone using a smartphone while doing another task failed at that other task. Shoppers would leave the store unclear about what they had bought and how much they had spent; a mother dropped her child’s hand to answer her phone as they were crossing a busy street.
The students also asked people about their reactions to others using technology around them. Those who were ignored while a friend texted considered the behavior rude and belittling — though most admitted they often did the same thing.
It would seem that the constant use of smartphones is having a negative effect on both our efficiency and our relationships. What’s the answer? Becoming aware of how dependent we are. Everyone who participated in the experiment now sees technology usage differently.
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