The New Silent Killer of Relationships: Multitasking

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Last night I burned dinner while I was texting. I was embarrassed admitting to my family why dinner was less than my best. Have you ever done this? A “quick” look at Facebook and your water has boiled over?  An email about a great sale happening sucks you in and you’ve forgotten what you were doing.

Multitasking is ingrained in our life. It is a sought after a job skill, and being hired is sometimes dependent on the ability to multitask. Multitasking in all its grandeur is a waste of time. There is an estimated 40% loss in production when we multitask. Chiefly, because we are not designed to multitask, despite society elevating it as a desired character strength.

Media multitasking is new problem we all own equally. We are all suckers to this problem. It’s the new silent killer and there is not an app to solve this.

The side effects from being a chronic multitasker (which many of us are)  are unsettling:

Perhaps you won’t be moved to alter your habits based on evidence that media multitasking has the potential to permanently damage your brain. How about if you understood the effect is has on your relationships?

THE PROBLEM: The people God has placed in our lives are getting ignored. 

Maybe you, like millions of others, flop down on the couch after a long day, open your laptop, select a movie from Netflix, reply to a few texts, check social media, and handle some emails – all at the same time. The brain cannot process all this efficiently. During this scenario if your child approaches you to talk, your brain will inadvertently ignore him or her. You may look up a few times and say, “Uh-huh. That’s great. Wow. Mhmm”  but the reality is you WILL NOT remember the conversation.

The brain can handle no more than two tasks at a time (even that is pushing it), and every other incoming stimuli will not make it into long-term memory. Rest assured, it’s not just us parents that are ignoring people.

In America the average number of devices used at once is four, for kids! That means they’re playing X-box, texting with a friend, using an I-pod for music, and a tablet for something else. They’re caught just as tight in the snare as we are. But they learned it from us. How many times have you asked them to go clean their room while they were gaming, and found them 5 minutes later still gaming? Their excuse is they don’t remember you saying that or hearing you. It’s kind of true. Their brain didn’t process what you said because it inadvertently decided the X-box and texting was more important.

We shouldn’t be fickle about what gets our attention. God and family always come first. Everything else can wait. 

THE TRUTH: Relationships are what we were created for. If we lose relationships we lose our purpose.

We strive to be “connected” to everyone, but multitasking through media is gravely affecting areas of the brain we use to emotionally connect with people face to face.  It’s been found that an addicted multitasker has less brain density in the areas of emotional control and empathy. After all the research was said and done, scientists wonder if it is repairable. They don’t know….

Emotional control and empathy are crucial qualities for raising children. Have you ever snapped at the kids to hush or go away because they were just too overwhelming? It’s possible it’s not them, but us because we spread ourselves thin from multitasking.

Are we willing to put all our chips on the table? Is risking our own character qualities to enjoy flip-flopping back in forth between stimuli worth it? Are we willing to offer up our kids to the gods of media and hope that it’s repairable?

We are phubbing almost every potential new friend, client, customer, and connection right beside us. God omnisciently places people on our paths who aren’t even given a first glance, much less a second look.

Phone snubbing has become a new standard. We see it at restaurants, waiting rooms, grocery lines, and even stop lights! The most defeating part is how it’s not only when people are alone and use it as a crutch, this happens inside of a collective groups out together – To be blunt: it’s rude – The act of phubbing sends a message to those around you that their presence is simply not worth your time.

Strong and purposeful connection with other people is the nectar of life, feeding and nourishing the soul. We need them with our spouses, our children, and our Savior. These connections will not be found inside our phones.

Our presence in media is directly affecting our presence with those around us.

A person’s potential for life change can be lost by an ignored interaction with us. You may be the exact person God placed in this exact place for this exact time but you miss it.

God uses the simple things about us and our testimony to change a person. With our heads in our phones switching and refreshing between Facebook, email, Twitter, and Snap Chat the fleeting moment for connection is gone. Ironically, we’re refreshing a bunch of pages looking for a connection, but that connection could be serving us coffee, with you in the doctor’s office, or worse, begging for your attention calling, “mommy!” and “daddy!”

THE PROBLEM: Our presence in media is directly affecting our presence with Jesus.

At a concert I recently attended the worship singer had to ask for everyone to put his or her phones away. Over half the audience had their phones up in the air recording and capturing every moment. Disturbingly, a quarter of the audience continued using their phones despite the polite quest to put them away. They were multitasking between God and media.

So that’s where we are now: phubbing God?

I find spiritual solitude is harder than it has ever been. If you have to, leave your phone on the other side of the house. Turn off the notifications. Or better yet, turn it off all together. We can’t focus of God’s word and check Facebook at the same time. This is not solitude and our Savior has made it pretty clear there’s only 1 God we are to worship – and that is Him.

Our enemy enjoys our distraction and confusion. He is thrilled over our lack of compassion towards others. Do not dilute satan’s delight in our current struggle; he loves this! We are not designed to multitask at the level the world expects of us. We can’t do it “all” and not risk what is most important: our emotional intelligence. The enemy feels success with every feeling of failure. He will strengthen his foothold in our lives if we do not gain control of our all-you-can-eat Media Buffet.

THE TRUTH: We have got to get it together. Our children are watching us. They learn from us, good or bad.

We have to heed these warnings and begin change otherwise our children will not learn to exemplify quality characteristics. It’s as simple as monkey see, monkey do.

Their success as adults is dependent on their ability to interact with others, it is not dependent on multitasking. Emotional intelligence will serve them far greater in life because they will express and control their own emotions making them better friends, employees, and leaders. Their ability to recognize and interpret others emotions will result in stronger marriages and parenting abilities for their own children. The best role models for them is us! They can’t learn all of this on their own. We have to model it.

Parents, we need to stop. How we manage our time, spend our attention, and the things we are giving priority to must be prayerfully considered. The souls God purposefully placed around us are depending on us to be the relational creatures we were designed to be.

THE SOLUTION:

Bravely back away.
With determination, turn off notifications on your devices.
Courageously, set up multiple device free times for you and your children.
Look your children in the eye, listen to them, engage with them – everything else can wait.

You can have it all, it will just look different. This “all” comes in the form of fulfilling relationships, controlled emotions, less stress, more creativity, and looking younger and less stressed out.

You have to be brave enough to stop.

 

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Chelsea Hezel

Chelsea Hezel

Chelsea is a classical Christian homeschool mom of three beautiful children. She married her high school sweetheart, and is still head over heels in love with him. She enjoys getting tattoos, listening to Guns n' Roses, reading classics, and most importantly she loves Jesus. Her goal is to always point you back to Jesus. He keeps her standing on her feet, standing, fresh and celebrating (Jude 1:24-25 MSG).

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