The recent debates over whether the Internet makes you dumber (as Nicholas Carr argues in The Wall Street Journal) or smarter (as Clay Shirky counters) both simplify what is in fact an astoundingly complex question.
Regardless of your own answer to the question, though, the latest research (as reported in the New York Times) does indeed suggest that we don’t multitask as well as we think. Furthermore—and this should really be no surprise—all the attention we pay to our screens, both large and small, distracts us from other important things in our lives.
How wired are you? How do you manage to multitask? How distracted are you by email, Twitter, IM, Facebook, Foursquare, RSS, and YouTube?
Could you quit, cold turkey, for a day?
Are you willing to take the Great ProfHacker Offline Challenge?
This is your challenge, should you choose to accept it: Go offline for 36 hours. Then come back and tell us about it in the comments.
Why 36 hours and not 24? Because we’re cruel. You could technically go offline for 24 hours, say noon-to-noon, and still squeeze in online activity in the morning of the first day and in the afternoon of the second. Thirty-six hours makes your withdrawal complete, at least for one whole waking-sleeping cycle.
There are other rules: the 36 hours have to be completely voluntary. You can’t take a flight from LGA to PEK and count that enforced downtime toward the challenge. Power outages from a summer thunderstorm don’t count. Neither does time spent in the county lockup.
Can you do it? If it’d be impossible, let us know and why. If you do do it, how did you manage? What were the practical, professional, and psychological effects? Do you have strategies to share for the rest of us about unplugging, even if only for a day?
Let us know! We’ll be here, online, patiently awaiting the results of your experiment!