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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Turple

Multi-tasking is a myth

Since the onslaught of the pandemic and the meteoric rise of education via Zoom, myself and others who work as teachers have noticed a marked decline in what one might call general etiquette when it comes to students attending courses in real time on Zoom. Students are engaging in all manner of activity during a training that, I imagine, they might hesitate to do in person: having a conversation with someone else in the room, texting or scrolling on their smartphone, eating, turning off their camera with no explanation for long periods of time or simply leaving halfway through a session with no explanation, because it's easy to disappear on Zoom.

As a yoga teacher, this has been particularly trying since yoga really is an experiential subject that requires one's full attention to get the most out of it. Students seem to be convinced they can now multi-task and do all sorts of things while attending trainings because they're on Zoom. I hate to burst their bubble but multi-tasking is a myth. You cannot place your full attention on more than one thing at a time. You can place a portion of your attention on many things at once, but you're not fully engaged in anything you're doing if trying to parcel out your attention to more than one thing.

We live in an age where distraction is not only accepted, it's encouraged. Giving our full attention to something or someone seems like a relic of the past. More and more, when I'm out at restaurants, I'll see couples or groups of people gathered for a meal together, all distracted by their devices. What's so important that you can't be with the people you're with? Some are taking photos documenting their meals for their Insta feed, others just don't seem interested in engaging in conversation so they pull out their device and start scrolling. I find this utterly depressing.

We are quite literally losing our ability to be with each other in any kind of civil or meaningful way. Looking at your phone while someone is speaking to you is basically saying to that person: you don't matter, there's something more important going on in my virtual world. The same phenomenon is happening on Zoom. Students (in general - there are, of course, exceptions) feel they can arrive when they want, pay attention (or not) when they want, pretty much do anything else besides be engaged in course material or with other participants. This can only degrade the quality of the education they're pursuing and degrade the general level of competence overall.

Your full attention is one of the greatest gifts you can give to others and to yourself. Listening intently when someone is speaking makes them feel seen and heard. It's also, quite simply, respectful. I know there are benefits to platforms like Zoom, which allows for out-of-town or immunocompromised students to join courses they couldn't otherwise attend and I'm not arguing for Zoom's elimination from education but using this platform is not a license to half-ass it. And frankly, do we think so little of ourselves that we don't want to show up fully and do our best? Or get the most out of what we paid for?

There is a marked decline in competence across many different fields and our inability to pay attention is most certainly contributing to this general apathy and carelessness. I sincerely hope we find our way out of this narcissistic fog and come to our senses. Otherwise, we'll be circling the drain towards our own doom and no one will be paying attention.

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