I am beginning to wonder if it is possible for me to single-task anymore.
Breakfast occurs to the backdrop of Twitter, Facebook and the most important overnight events as synthesised into Google Reader. Conversations occur against a background of web-surfing and social networking, and most often these days, these conversations themselves take place on the internet. There’s always time to check Twitter while something compiles. My phone sits next to me as I cook, flicking through the net as saucepans bubble away.
And then there’s the evening, a dozen tabs open, some of them are playing video which seeps slowly into my brain as a background process while I blog; Twitter and Facebook on 5-minute refresh, push e-mail, Reader on “1000+ items unread”. I’m on the net if I’m watching TV. When reading a book, the ping of a new e-mail distracts me immediately. And there’s always background music.
Every time I try for some reason to single-task, it’s as if the System Idle Process of my brain pokes my consciousness every so often and says “isn’t there something I could be doing?” I realise that many people, on discovering this, have the urge to ‘internet detox’, to cut down their online activities or try and go cold turkey and do without the internet for as long as possible.
But I don’t. I like this feeling. I love filling my bloodstream with caffeine, opening my eyes wide, becoming one with my code and with the background buzz of the internet like some cyberpunk hacker kid. I don’t know what it’s doing to my head in the long run, but I don’t think it’s damaging – it feels just like it’s optimising itself differently. I’m by no means the first person to have encountered this, and with the increasing pace of technology and pervasiveness of the net, I am a long long way from being the last. In 20 years, or maybe 120, we might discover what happens to society when everyone’s brains parallel-process in a way that ours are only just beginning to grasp.