Michael LoBue writes: I can’t remember when I signed up for my Twitter account — probably 6 months ago when a colleague in the association management space assured me that it was “where it’s all happening”. It is where it’s all happening; the train wreck of thought!
Intuitively I couldn’t quite accept that much of anything could be communicated in 140 characters unless a deep context already existed between the communicating parties. If other means of online communications didn’t exist (e.g., email, group lists, blogs, SNSs, etc.), then there might be some value to it; but I couldn’t see the there, there.
This morning I read Why Email No Longer Rules in the WSJ. Jessica Vascellaro contends that “services like Twitter, Facebook and Google Wave, with their constant stream of interaction among users — for better or for worse” has knocked email off its top perch. I think for worse – much worse!.
I reviewed a wonderful little experiment commissioned about one of our firm’s clients, the Institute for Innovation & Information Productivity (IIIP).
This study sought to understand whether attention deficits and associated performance drop-offs were statistically significant and if they varied with age or gender when an office worker was interrupted with email and text messages. Subjects were given a cognitively challenging task to perform, and then were interrupted with email and text messages to test their abilities to recover focus and complete the original task. Here’s what the researcher, Dr. Martin Westwell of Oxford University’s Institute for the Future of the Mind discovered:
- There was a significant difference between age groups on performance with cognitively demanding tasks under conditions of high interrupts.
- Younger people (18 – 21), lost their cognitive advantage over older counterparts when interrupted continuously during cognitively demanding work;
- The older group (35 – 39), saw no significant performance degradation under conditions of high interrupts and cognitively demanding tasks.
When I spoke with Dr. Westwell about this research, he went on to say: “The drop off in performance was akin to suffering from a concussion resulting from an injury in a contact sport such as football!” Find full report here…
The point is, email is bad enough in the hands of someone with little discipline — Twitter is like crack-cocaine to an addict. If you’ve read this far — well beyond 140 characters — and you think there’s some merit to this position, then you should read Mark Baurerlein’s The Dumbest Generation
This post also appears on AssociationVoices.