A multi-tasking moral panic
The news about our multi-tasking media lives has been met with a mixture of shock, indifference - and just a hint of moral panic.
According to Ofcom, we spend nearly half our waking lives watching telly, texting, surfing the web, and generally using every form of media and communications technology.
That's the headline from the media regulator's annual chunky report on the communications market. And the reactions to the research have been interesting. Some - like me - were not at all surprised by the sheer volume. Never mind half, so far today I've spent just about all my waking hours online, listening to the radio, or talking on the telephone, even while eating breakfast.
Others said this picture of multi-tasking media habits was actually old hat - one correspondent tells me a study 20 years ago showed most magazines were read while watching television.
As ever with anything about the way we use the media and technology, there has been a hint of disapproval, even panic from some commentators. Is it really healthy, they ask, for us to be hopping from one thing to another without properly concentrating? Shouldn't we spend more time communicating with our friends and family? Is Google, as one writer put it recently, making us stupid?
Before we get too worried, a few points that might reassure you. The study shows that the generation which is leading this revolution is actually devoting less time to these activities than the rest of us. 16-to-24-year-olds spend an average of six hours and 35 minutes a day on media and communications, as opposed to the average seven hours and five minutes.
But it is they of course who are the most adept at multi-tasking, so they're actually squeezing more activity into that time - they're more efficient than the rest of us.
Ah, but surely all they're doing is mucking about on Facebook (the study does show that the social network occupies an extraordinary amount of our time online) when they could be doing something more useful with their lives?
Hold on a minute - I seem to remember that when I was a young person a very long time ago, there was a moral panic about teenagers doing nothing more than watch television. It was rotting our brains, we had lost the art of communication.
It's the modern teenager's obsession with their computers and mobile phones which worries parents today - but if you look at what they're doing, much of it involves communication and creativity, not something you could say about the passive activity of television viewing. Whether it is uploading videos to YouTube, contributing to a gamers' forum or simply sharing a joke on Facebook, today's teenage media activities require far more engagement than slumping in front of Dallas or Dynasty.
Still, it will be a comfort to some that the Ofcom study shows that old-fashioned television remains by far our favourite media pastime, despite predictions that it would be killed off in the new media revolution. What's more, television is the activity which appears to demand most concentration - we are less likely to be doing something else at the same time when we are watching a compelling piece of TV.
As a neuroscientist told the Today programme this morning, the Greeks worried about the pernicious impact of literature, while in the 1930s it was the cinema that was going to rot young minds. It's natural that we should ask searching questions about the effect of new technology on our society. But perhaps we all need to calm down - and learn to love our multi-tasking media world.