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Multitasking, but Not as We Know it

Joe Johnson

We all know that our lives are being increasingly enveloped by media, but have you ever stopped to think how much of your waking hours you are actually spending consuming media, that is, browsing the net, watching TV or using your mobile?

Probably not, these things have become like second nature to us, the hardware we use to receive these messages has become an extension of our own body. Even if you're not active in SEO or web design, our devotion to media consumption has been highlighted in a report by OFCOM, the independent regulator  for the communications industry in the UK. As well as producing some predictable findings, it also alerts us to some new trends we may not have been aware of.

Unsurprisingly media usage in the UK is high with the average Briton now spending  half of their day communicating and consuming media. This certainly correlates with my day so far: I woke up to the news on television, had a short respite before getting in the car and listening to the radio on the way to work, when at work it’s straight onto the Internet to begin researching the days’ topics.  That’s around two and a half hours of my day spent in the presence of  some form of media and I’ve only been awake for four!  Ofcom reports that seven hours interacting and consuming information is about average for Brits, but the key point to take away from the study is that we actually spend more like nine hours a day watching, listening, browsing and texting. How so? Multitasking!

When we hear the term the old debate that’s constantly dredged up about men ���not being able to multitask’ immediately springs to mind, but within the realm of media use, the truth is that men and women are both equally capable of multitasking. So what exactly does the term refer to in this context? Multitasking (if you hadn’t already guessed)  is the simultaneous use or consumption of multiple media channels at the same time.   For example you may browse the net whilst listening to the radio, or text at the same time as watching TV. 16-24 year olds are most adept at this and although they are the age group with the smallest chunk of their day devoted to media (6.5 hours) they manage to cram  many different channels of communication into this time.

Predictably this has raised a number of questions and provoked reaction from industry experts and concerned Daily Mail readers.   So is multitasking a good thing? It certainly means this age group are far more time efficient.  They are able to cram more into their day (including non-media activities) by completing all their media activities at once. The fear is that this has a detrimental effect on concentration span.  Flitting back and forth between information channels could possibly be a detrimental tendency at school or in the workplace. Do the benefits outweigh the disadvantages?   Well, it's important to note that modern media consumption is far more interactive and social (Facebook and Twitter) than passively consuming television or film, but that’s another subject entirely!

Do you multitask? Do you think it’s a good thing? Broadcast your views below, even if you are busy watching TV!

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