It’s from August 2007, but a paper in the online peer-reviewed journal First Monday caught my attention just now. It’s about the phenomenon the authors term “Infomania,” but which can also be called Attention Deficit Trait (ADT).
ADT was first hypothesized by Edward Hallowell. He asserts that “the cognitive impact of Infomania causes people to work well below their full potential. They produce less output, think superficially, and generate fewer new ideas – despite working an increasing number of hours.”
There’s a lot of familiar and worrying points made in this article: distractions from email, smartphones, and the Web may be leading to poor management decision-making because meetings, time to think, and interactions with peers and colleagues are compromised. People sneak peeks at their email during meetings. Managers email staff instead of talking with them, and vice-versa. Lack of response to emails creates “online silence,” and erodes trust and saps teams of energy. Information workers are run ragged because they are “always on.” Thinking takes big chunks of time, and Infomania is depriving us of those, leading to tepid or misguided decision-making.
While the overall productivity gains in the economy over the past 10-15 years might be somewhat attributable to the efficiencies of online, that macroeconomic view leaves the issues in this article untouched. Have we sacrificed some essential long-term advantages while making short-term gains?