Has the evolved generation regressed?

JUGGLING TASKS AT ITS FINEST: A man keeping cool with a can of soft drink while using the phone as he crosses the road. Ms Schneider marvels at her young classmates' ability to multitask, or rather, switch their focus backwards and forwards really quickly, and quotes an instance of a classmate texting while engaging in a conversation.


    Oct 06, 2015

    Has the evolved generation regressed?

    I SUSPECT human beings have evolved since the advent of the smartphone, which is quite amazing when you consider the short period of time involved. And no, I haven't been reading the results of someone's spurious research. I've been fortunate enough to witness this phenomenon first-hand.

    But first, a little background information. Since the beginning of September, I've been participating in a short business course that is helping me to be more organised and also provides me with the necessary knowledge to set up my own business, should I choose.

    There are eight other people in my class, all in their early 20s. At 50-mumble years old, I'm old enough to be their grandmother. Nonetheless, I enjoy hanging out with them, because they allow me to release my inner 20-something self.

    Still, I haven't noticed any marked physical differences between my classmates and me, other than a few wrinkles, diminished eyesight and creaky joints.

    But I suspect my younger friends get their bad eyesight from staring at their smartphone screens for hours on end, premature wrinkles from scrunching up their eyes so much and painful thumb joints from their constant texting.

    Indeed, it looks as if all eight of them are suffering from Blackberry Thumb, a form of repetitive stress injury. One of them has permanently contorted fingers, so it looks as if she has them wrapped around a phone, even when she's not holding anything. With her little claw-like hands and her elbows bent and pressed to the side of her body, she looks like a Tyrannosaurus rex.

    And this is evolution?


    During a coffee break the other day, I noticed one of the other girls seated on the opposite side of a table from our lecturer. She listened intently to the older man, while nodding her head in agreement from time to time. The expression on her face told me she had great respect for what was being said, but then I noticed something going on beneath the table that told me otherwise.

    Unbeknown to the lecturer, she was tapping furiously away at the keypad on her phone while he was talking to her.

    A short while later, when he was out of earshot, I asked the Texting Fiend how she was able to text while participating in a conversation.

    "It's called multitasking," she said, as if I'd never heard of the word before.

    "Don't you think multitasking is a myth?" I asked. "All you're really doing is switching backwards and forwards between two tasks."

    "That's been debunked," she said.

    "By whom?"

    It was obvious that I'd been asleep during a recent discovery.

    "By me," she said, without the slightest hint of boastfulness. "I successfully texted my way through university. I can watch a movie in the cinema while writing a text message on a phone concealed in my handbag. I can also sit on my grandmother's sofa and have entire conversations with her, while writing text messages on my phone hidden beneath a cushion on my lap."

    At the mention of the word "grandmother", my ears pricked up and I raised my eyebrows a fraction.

    She laughed and put her hands on top of the table. "No, I'm not texting now."

    "Doesn't your grandmother ever notice?"


    "But surely you must be switching your focus backwards and forwards all the time?"

    "If you really want to break it down to minute fractions of a second, that's what I must be doing. But when you do it really fast, the switching flattens out to the extent that I really am multitasking."

    I could feel my 20-something self shrivelling slightly.


    Later that day, I found myself in the computer room, where my classmates and I had to complete a report to a tight deadline.

    As I'm known as something of a deadline junkie, I didn't even question my ability to get the task done without getting flustered, but I did wonder how my classmates would fare.

    No sooner had I fired up my computer than I heard the rapid clacking sound of someone typing furiously. I turned to look at the young man two computers away from me, half expecting to see smoke rising from his keyboard. Then someone else began typing, just as fast.

    Soon the room resembled a press tent in a war zone. The noise was so loud that a bomb could have exploded outside the door and we wouldn't have been aware of it. Or at least, I wouldn't have.

    The superior multitaskers in the room would not only have been able to hear the missile's approach, they would have had time to compose a text message to loved ones telling them not to worry about them.

    It's so obvious there's only one dinosaur in that class.