Due to the rapid changes in mobile and internet accessibility, users are vulnerable to media multitasking. “Multitasking – engaging in two or more activities at once – is certainly not a new phenomenon” (Wang & Tchernev 2012, p.493). Convergent technologies have altered audience multitasking practices, no longer are we just paying our attention solely to one task. We have for some time now have been engaging in multitasking, shifting to and from various medium activities. The complexity of multitasking is intriguing because our attention is divided among different media platforms and activities. Attention is at the heart of multitasking.
Participating in a multitasking environments impact the human minds way of thinking in both a positive and negative way. Multitasking allows each individuals learning experience to be improved with the ability to access facts, expanding their knowledge and understanding. According to a survey of 866 undergraduate students in 2011, 70% students take part in multitasking and 29% students do not. The reasons behind media multitasking were due to boredom (40%), the allowance of a device’s capability (31%), saving time (17.8%), and for enhancing work performance (8%) (Song et al. 2013, p. 192).
Unknowingly we multitask every day, in the morning you can be watching the news on the TV, listening to the background music on the radio and reading a newspaper article while drinking a hot caramel latte. However, in that given context where is our attention? Are we more intrigued in what where seeing, hearing or reading?
On the other hand, multitasking does have negative challenges and consequences that we have to be aware of. Multitasking is resulting in cognitive overload, increased distractions and limits our willpower to achieve focus. We are engaging in “multitasking illusions” where the brains ability to organise and interpret sensory stimulation is distorted. This is evident in our inability to text and drive at the same time.
If you text and drive you are putting yourself and others in harm’s way. You are not only waiting for a disaster to happen but you are fooling your brain that multitasking is accessible. For a short moment you engage in the risk and choose to ignore the long term consequences. According to the U.S National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2011, 3,331 people in the United States were killed and 387,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers (Cismaru 2014, p. 66).
Never have there been more distractions vying for a driver’s attention: text messages, phone calls, sat navs and internet the most prevalent. Despite countless lives lost and damaged because of distractions, young drivers are the most likely to send that SMS or answer that call (AAMI 2012 Young Drivers Index Report, p. 1).
According to the AAMI 2012 Young Drivers Index report, young drivers are four times more likely to send a text message while driving and five times more likely to use the internet than drivers aged over 50. The issue of texting and driving is aggregated by the need to stay up to date with social media because a fear of missing out is instilled in the user. Furthermore, radio competitions require listeners to send a text or call up to win the prize. “People should not take things for granted when behind the wheel as no prize is worth risking your life,” (Suhail 2014).
Throughout the world, distracted drivers are a menace and continue to cause dangers to road safety. As seen in the below video, in 2014 Volkswagen “Eyes on the road” ad made people aware of the dangers of multitasking while driving. The innovative ad was shown in a movie theater in Hong Kong which was equipped with a location-based broadcaster that could send a mass text to everyone in the theatre room at once. At the same time the ad aired on the big screen, when there was a big bang on screen movie goers were no longer looking at their phones but at the accident which occurred on screen. As a result, engaging in dangerous multitasking activites can result in valuable life lesson.
AAMI 2014, AAMI 2012 Young Drivers Index Report, AMMI, viewed 10 September 2014, http://www.aami.com.au/company-information/news-centre/special-reports%3E
Cismaru, M 2014, ‘Using the Extended Parallel Process Model to Understand Texting While Driving and Guide Communication Campaigns Against It’, Social Marketing Quarterly 2014, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 66-82. http://smq.sagepub.com/content/20/1/66.abstract
Kiley, A 2009, Texting While Driving: How Dangerous is it?, image, Car and Driver, 10 September 2014, http://www.caranddriver.com/features/texting-while-driving-how-dangerous-is-it
Song, K, Nam, S, Lim, H & Kim, J 2013, ‘Analysis of Youngsters’ Media Multitasking Behaviors and Effect on Learning’, International Journal of Multimedia and Ubiquitous Engineering, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 191-198. http://www.sersc.org/journals/IJMUE/vol8_no4_2013/19.pdf
Suhail, F 2014, Texting while driving is a recipe for a disaster, Gulf News, 10 September 2014, http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/society/texting-while-driving-is-a-recipe-for-a-disaster-1.1381288
Wang, Z & Tchernev 2012, ‘The “Myth” of Media Multitasking: Reciprocal Dynamics of Media Multitasking, Personal Needs, and Gratifications’, Journal of Communication, vol. 62, no. 3, pp. 493-513. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2012.01641.x/abstract