Is information addictive?

The New York Times has an article that describes a "disorder" shared by many of us who spend too much time online.

I'm not sure that I agree with the "diagnosis" that what people are experiencing is an addiction, but there is certainly an allure to having the constant ability to communicate and access information.

The article also discusses multitasking and it's effect on efficiency and attention span. Here, I'm inclined to agree with the article's comments that most people aren't good at multitasking and that it is likely to cause significant degradation in efficiency. In my experience, the problem is intensified when doing creative work. It's certainly a lot easier to have the TV on in the background and be reading email when shredding papers or doing other low-creativity tasks than it is to do when writing articles on this site or working on code. For those tasks, interruptions are usually reduced by turning them off or tuning them out.

This brings to mind one additional thing in this discussion of multitasking and information overload, the question of interruptions. When you switch from doing one task to doing another, you naturally expend some brain power to stop thinking about what you were thinking about and then to recall all of the information you need to regain your train of thought.

This is where interrupts come in. If you are working on a complex problem and your phone rings, or you computer beeps to tell you that you have new email, you are likely going to get distracted and at least temporarily stop thinking about the problem at hand. This kind of break is not very productive as it jars the process.

However, technology is not to blame when it comes to interruptions, the use of technology is. In a standard office environment before email and phones, people were interrupted by colleagues knocking on the door. However, by making effective use of email, interruptions that are not time critical can be easily delayed until the recipient is prepared to take a break due to writer's block or just a general need to interact with others.