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Ways In Which You Are Like A Hyperactive Toddler

If you're like most Web users, you likely won't read too much further beyond this sentence. I could be held personally accountable for this, of course, but I'm not going to do that to myself. The more likely reason is that you, like most of us, probably have an Internet attention span akin to that of a small insect. Or a highly rambunctious 2-year-old.

At least as far as writer Dave Cohn is concerned, whom we discovered via Mediashift. He has dubbed this malady "Internet Multitasking Syndrome."

(Do not WebMD-search that term. It is not medical. Cohn made it up and he is not a doctor.)

John Suler, author of The Psychology of Cyberspace, explained the typical scenario to Cohn this way: "After hours starring at a screen, flipping between web pages and information outlets, people can develop a feeling of anxiety, stress and a decrease in mental performance. There are limits to how much information one person can process."

In other words, you've got 37 windows open and you're Instant Messaging four of your pals, listening to iTunes, watching YouTube, writing an e-mail, posting a comment on some blog and reading the Wall Street Journal.

So, really, you're not paying attention to any one thing.

Instead, says Suler: "You are getting a cursory understanding of several different sources of information at one time, it's a delicate balance – do you want to get a shallow understanding of lots of different things or a deep grasp of one topic?"

Unfortunately, this is not a matter that has produced much in the way of scholarship, (thesis topic, graduate students!) according to University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communications professor Joseph Turow.

Which might make you wonder where the future of news is headed – since more of us are getting it online.

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