Multitasking: a college epidemic?

By Brandon Smith

There are a million things to do in any given day. Writing papers, studying for tests, working, socializing and keeping up with the Kardashians can consume anyone’s time. But research suggests that trying to accomplish all of these things at once isn’t worth the time it purportedly saves.

According to Susan Weinschenk, a behavioral psychologist with more than 30 years of experience, our brains can become accustomed to switching between tasks. She said multitasking changes the chemistry of the brain and drives it to seek more activity.

“It gets addictive,” she said. “Once you start going and switching tasks, there becomes a larger draw to keep doing as much as possible.”

According to Weinschenk, multitasking is a frivolous term, and it can prove to be a very dangerous habit.

“Technically, you’re switching between two separate tasks, and because of this, researchers call the act ‘task switching,’” she said.

Weinschenk said multitasking causes people to be less efficient than they think they are, and the act can wear down the brain.

“It makes people very fatigued,” she said. “They don’t realize that at the end of the day, when they are exhausted, it is probably due to the fact that they’ve been task switching all day.”

Steven Corey, chairman of the Department of Humanities, History and Social Sciences at Columbia, said multitasking extends far beyond text messaging while taking notes in class.

“A modern college student today is probably working at various capacities,” he said. “They may have multiple jobs on top of classes and are dealing with various living situations,” Corey said.

Carlee Craig, a sophomore journalism major, said multitasking is just part of a student’s life.

“It is almost impossible to sit down and just do one thing,” she said. “I listen to music, check my email and Facebook and send friends texts, all while trying to write a paper.”

However difficult, there is an easy way to curb the urge to multitask, according to Weinschenk.

“You have to make a very conscious effort not to switch tasks. Turn off your devices, turn off your email, close Facebook and turn off your phone. You have to say, ‘I’m going to take this next hour and read or write and do the one thing that I have to do now.’”

According to Corey, prioritizing and facing the challenge of scaling back and realizing limitations are important things to strive for.

“We are bombarded every day with potential distractions and information,” he said. “We just have to create strategies that keep us from getting side tracked.”