One of the common criticisms of the millennial worker is that we frequently seem distracted. Whether texting, emailing, checking Facebook, or even playing games, our mobile devices have turned us into “distracted” workers. Managers and coworkers see young people with their noses in their smart phones and tablets and assume that they are not paying any attention to the task at hand. However, if you ask any working millennial they will tell you that they are paying just as close attention as they would if they were not looking at their phones. I can even attest to the fact that checking my phone while at work can actually keep me more focused on what I’m trying to get done.
Sunni Brown, in her Ted talk titled “Doodlers, unite!” discussed why society should not make doodling out to be such a negative. “We’re blinded to the value of doodling,” she says. She claims that the true definition of doodling should be ‘to make spontaneous marks to help yourself think’. People who doodle retain 29% more of the information than their non-doodling counterparts. “It is a preemptive measure to stop you from losing focus.”
You may be wondering why I brought that up. If you think about it, doing something on your phone may have a very similar effect. Someone sitting in a meeting while Snapchating or checking Facebook may actually be retaining more information than we think. Another important factor that people should consider is that the millennials were raised in a different time than any other generation. We were born into an age when we could use the Internet anytime we wanted and we had phones by the time we were in high school. We have always learned alongside technology. Should people who did not share this experience judge us for the way we work? On the other hand, I’m sure there are young workers who love playing on their phone and it truly is a distraction, which is an issue. But could this possibly just be the new way that new generations are absorbing information going forward?
Looking at the other possibilities, this article and interview with Louis C.K. discusses the downfall to my generation’s attachment to our phones. They say that smart phone usage leads to lower GPAs, higher anxiety, and lower satisfaction with life. Also, studies are now finding that it is much harder to connect on a deep level with one’s romantic partner because of the increased use of our phones.
It is too early to tell for sure, but it is an interesting topic to discuss. Are smartphones ruining or enhancing young people’s ability to learn?