The ability to simply spend almost an entire class period “wasting time on the internet” was unique and not necessarily what I thought it would be like. The most significant difference I noticed between being in a classroom environment rather than one at the library or at home is the extra element of connectivity I experienced by being surrounded and communicating with everyone in the room. Wasting time on the internet has never been difficult for me especially late at night when I should be sleeping or studying, but during this experiment I felt more overwhelmed by the technology than usual.
The Hayles article about the differences between deep and hyper attention explains hyper attention as being “characterized by switching focus rapidly among different tasks, preferring multiple information streams, seeking a high level of simulation, and having a low tolerance for boredom” and that’s exactly what the class experiment centered on. The reason I felt overwhelmed probably stemmed by having multiple tabs on; one with the chatroom constantly beeping, another with my email, and others with Facebook, Pinterest, and at one point The Economist website so I could do some reading for another class. This is the definition of hyper attention. As an English major, I practice and at times prefer deep attention. I’m like any other college student though and spend much of my time walking to class checking Instagram or Twitter, almost addicted to these small bits of information, but this experiment has made me realize the amount of time in my life I spend practicing hyper attention is much more significant to how much time I spend using deep attention.
Following my history, I pulled up my blackboard account to print off readings for my other English class, and at the same time was simultaneously using my virtual French textbook to study for my quiz the next morning. I’m very type A person and I like to get things done, so the ability technology gives me to finish more things at once is very attractive to me and it doesn’t necessarily seem overwhelming at that point rather than helpful. Hayles mentions the multiple forms of media that the individuals in generation M are potentially receiving at once and following my browser history there’s no way to deny that she’s wrong. I don’t like the silence so the first tab I opened was Pandora, a music app customized to play exactly the kind of music I want to hear. Then I moved to the chatroom to allow for instantaneous communication, and then to Facebook, and Pinterest, and so on. I constantly was checking and engaging in different things, but the question then became how thoroughly am I engaged in these things if I’m flitting so rapidly between them, and what does that mean about all the other activities in my life that I partake in everyday? The chart below from emarketer.com shows the sheer volume and also variety of ways that we use media in our everyday lives.