Check Facebook While You Read This Article

With all the distractions we are presented with these days from connecting with our friends on Facebook and other social networks, it can be very difficult to focus on schoolwork. It is easy to blog about your life, text your friends, watch music videos on YouTube or do an inordinate number of other things when you’re supposed to be working on an essay or studying for finals. In addition, parents are struggling to adjust to a world in which their kids would generally rather look at words on a cell phone screen than have a conversation on the phone.

For the older generations, it is simply not the culture they grew up with so it makes sense that we are likely to see some resistance to it. However, we should admit that there are some frightening aspects to our dependence today on technology and media.

An Associated Press article recently noted that there is a negative correlation between the time we spend in front of TVs and computers and school performance. Although the study makes sense to a certain extent, this is not true for every individual since some finish their homework and study before using either of those devices. I would like to note that studies like the Associated Press study assume that time spent not being productive is time strictly wasted.

However, I want to point out that the AP’s logic betrays an ignorance of the creative process. We are not designed to maintain a constant focus on assigned tasks. We need breaks to relieve our conscious minds of the pressure to perform well — a pressure that can lock us into a single mode of thinking. Considering something else for a while can clear away that single mode of thinking and allow us the opportunity to look at an issue through fresh eyes. This is the beauty of the media and technology that are so-called distractions. Yet, similar to eating fast food, time spent with technology and social media is best spent in moderation given that multi-tasking is not really good for anyone; consistently monitoring when the next Facebook wall post or text message comes may not be healthy behavior to incorporate into one’s lifestyle.

To keep myself motivated to stay away from distractions sometimes, I find it helpful to set aside a specific time for using social networking, other recreational websites and other forms of media and technology to increase my productivity. For example, I’ve allotted myself time to check my Facebook profile once in the morning and once in the evening. I know that if I don’t give myself any limits, I’m capable of staying on Facebook and “becoming a fan” of 10 more pages instead of trying to adhere to the rule of 3 hours of studying for every academic unit. I’m sure that many people experience this problem too, so make sure to set aside time for leisure time. If you specifically find social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter distracting, try studying away from a computer using textbooks or even use a computer which has those sites blocked. Alternatively, you could arrange study groups with your friends so you can keep each other motivated as well as helping each other out.

I’ll admit that during the time I took to write this article, I’ve taken a couple of breaks to go on Facebook to see what my friends are up to. Sometimes relapses happen where you have a setback with your plans. But don’t worry, I reminded myself that my friends will still be on my Facebook profile after I finished my work, so I immediately closed my Internet browser upon logging onto my account and got back to business.

Kevin Phan is a fourth-year biological sciences major. He can be reached at phankt@uci.edu.