Multi-tasking, like I wrote about last time, used to be primarily limited to the work environment and soccer moms. Now, with the already well-worn discussions and doth-protesting-too-much chatter by and about crackberries and sidekicks disrupting life as we knew it, MT Talk - conversations taking place while multi-tasking - has made its way into the home, apparent on weekends and evening hours – and is prevalent among freelancers and social butterflies. In our time-starved society this syndrome is more and more apparent and is not only responsible for curtailing relationships but to actually putting our very lives at risk!
I am ashamed to say I first recognized the symptoms in myself. As an independent marketer, I am joined at the hip to my Treo and a high-speed connected laptop. (My addiction to e-mail and breaking news online is something to be analyzed in another forum – probably with a couch involved.) I admit having tapped into my old acting skills when a phone call has come in at the same time as an intriguing email, and attempted to portray an active listener with well-placed “Uh-huhs” and “Oh!”s. Though I may not have always been the most convincing, especially when having to ask the caller to repeat themselves after I was shocked back to attention by my sub-conscious picking up on something like, oh, how their toddler backed the car out of the driveway alone, or “so I was hoping you were free to attend the Oscars with me.” (Okay, maybe I didn’t exactly ever hear something like that, but since my blog topic is about being snapped back to reality I'm allowed to dream. And in my dream, the writers' strike has been amicably settled in time, too.)
But when you catch your friends doing it right back to you, it’s pretty clear how no one is fooling anyone when involved in MTTalk. It’s the extra beat or two it takes to hear the standard conversational responses or niceties. It’s the same as hearing the supposed ex-smoker take an inhale that clearly was a drag on a cigarette not an innocent breath. Busted.
To be fair, there’s a lot of pressure on us in this society...like find a job, a boyfriend, or sell your car (usually all done online). And do it all...yesterday. Plus, there are so many incoming messages across so many platforms that it can be hard to prioritize. Just a little over five years ago, it was newsworthy, and an Ad Age headline screamed: MORE CONSUME MULTIPLE MEDIA SIMULTANEOUSLY. "People are actually involved on a regular and occasional basis with as many as two or sometimes three different media at any given time," (AdAge.com – 10/8/02)
But now, you could literally be online while on the phone with your BFF, with a YouTube video playing, when your IM pops open and an email comes in...just for starters.
I’ve got lots of ideas for still getting a marketing message through in that kind of environment, but socially, before conversation skills go the way of the hand-written thank you note, we should all try to pledge against MT Talk and practice solo-tasking on the phone.
Or you just might miss that invitation to the Oscars.