It's Friday night in a romantic Italian restaurant with tables set for two. The low murmur of intimate conversation is punctuated by laughter and the occasional clinking of glasses. Candlelight flickers, and couples lean toward one another across tables, speaking conspiratorially with hands intertwined. Suddenly, the air is pierced by a loud digital ringing.
Ten years ago, diners might have turned in annoyance at the interruption, but today, a different scene emerges. The restaurant explodes in a flurry of activity. Hands are untangled and conversations screech to a halt as women dig in their purses and men fumble around in their pockets. In less than fifteen seconds, half the faces in the restaurant are washed in the glow of tiny digital screens, everyone scrolling and clicking to see if they've missed a call. Someone in the back calls out "It's mine", and phones are returned to their pockets and purses, or simply left out on the tabletop for easier access the next time around.
Looking around the restaurant, and then back at my own boyfriend, who is checking his recent texts, I have to wonder: is multitasking killing romance?
The experts seem to think so. As reported in a recent LiveScience article, human brains struggle to do multiple activities at once. We may feel more "productive" when we have conversations while watching web videos or checking our phones, but our brains can't actually process multiple activities simultaneously. Instead, the brain switches back and forth between the activities, which results in diminished attention and concentration fatigue. In other words: you think you're paying attention, but you're not. Relationship Bad Habits: How To Break Them
Depressingly, it turns out that getting "better" at multitasking is almost impossible. In a 2009 study, frequent multitaskers were found to have difficulty sorting useless information from relevant information, and consistently struggled with switching from task to task.
So what does this mean for our love lives? You may not think multitasking affects your relationship negatively (after all, if your boyfriend doesn't hop out of bed to water his Farmville crops after sex, what's there to fuss about?), but it's likely that the do-everything-at-once attitude so pervasive in today's culture is affecting your relationship more than you realize.