I have a love / hate relationship with technology and the ability to always be connected. While I love my iPhone and can’t imagine life without it (pathetic, I know) … at the same time there is something about the expectation that I will be connected and available 24×7 – both in my personal and professional lives – that is infuriating to me.
I remember the first job I had that issued me a BlackBerry. I had the option of porting my personal call phone number over – that the company would pay for!!! – or getting a separate work phone number for the BlackBerry. Well, the only thing I was able to concentrate on was the money I would be saving, so I gladly turned over my personal phone number to have one, all-in-one smartphone device, paid for by my company. Hello, BlackBerry!
Of course, the result of that brilliant decision was that like it or not, I became “always-on.” Making this reality that much more evident, the job that provided me with the BlackBerry was a global role – so as the night wore on, all of a sudden that little red BlackBerry light was blinking away with all kinds of requests and things I needed to deal with from Asia. When I woke up, the red light was illuminated from my European colleagues. It never ended. 24×7, the red light blinked away, alerting me to something that needed to be dealt with.
Needless to say, the increased stress and anxiety levels quickly followed – as well as the guilt that came if (heaven forbid!) I went more than an hour without checking in.
On my 30th birthday, I planned a fun getaway at the beach where friends from all across the country were coming in to celebrate with me. As I tried to relax on the beach, waiting for my friends to call as they arrived so we could make arrangements to meet up, I couldn’t help but notice it: the Red. Blinking. Light. Of. Pain. You have to love my European colleagues, who proceeded to scold me each time I responded to an email for not truly being on holiday. “SHUT IT OFF!!!!”, they emailed me countless times (from Europe … not the U.S.!). I think it was during this long weekend that I had what Oprah would call my “ah-ha moment”.
But that’s the thing – you can’t just shut it off anymore. And I KNOW it’s not just me, or my personal and professional situation, who is dealing with this reality. I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately about how the constant mental stimulation from laptops, phones, iPads, etc. is literally re-wiring our brains. In case you were wondering, this isn’t a good thing.
For a long time now, I’ve been trying to figure out where to draw the line. It’s not easy – I’ve become accustomed to the constant email checking, map looking up, Facebook status updating, Google searching at any given moment – as the industry says, “anywhere, any time from any device”. While I’ve started turning off all ringers in the evening (from both work and personal devices), that doesn’t stop me checking everything at all hours anyway.
Taking the other side as well, the reality is that I work outside of the traditional Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. Saturday and Sunday emailing and updates are the norm. Do I get a little annoyed with my colleagues who may not choose to respond during these hours? Do I feel like a giant ugly hypocrite? Um … that answer coming in a future post.
I guess it’s up to me to set the boundaries that I need. Easier said than done, of course! Maybe I can follow the example of the yoga studio I go to — it doesn’t allow you to bring in your phones and other devices during your practice. What a novel idea. Maybe it’s time to start treating a few other places I frequent (at specified times, of course) like my own, personal yoga studio.
With that thought, I have to say … “Ooooooommmmmmmmmm.”