I wanted to write about how to maintain our energy levels on the road, when I was distracted by the guy next to me texting incessantly. I moved seats. So I could write up my thoughts. On my computer. Sigh.
Text me! Call me! Send me an email! See you later! Oh boy, how the escalation of constant contact has shoehorned its way into our lives. Texting is now accepted, like cell phone talking, everywhere, just about everywhere. There was a woman texting in my focus group this week. Because she was a physician, I somehow did not feel up to asking her to stop, as I do consumers. But it was weird and I am old enough to consider it kind of impolite.
Texting – which we were doing market research on ten years ago, among adolescents – has become a global means of connection. Or distraction, depending on which end of it you are at. I was in a classical concert a few weeks ago, and a woman a few seats over spent the entire time on her BlackBerry. So big deal, I suppose, but why come out in public to something you are not engaged in? I just wonder where we are going.
If I were French, I might text all the time myself, just because the word is fun. With no relevance here, except that this is my blog and I can write what I like, I want to mention that I fell in love with the word texting in French, the second language in my corner of North America. Texting is clavardage. While I understand the word, of course, to me it sounds delicious, like Clafouti, the name of a yummy French plum tart in a Julia Child cookbook.
Who are we kidding? We live a frenetically compressed schedule, most of us, when we are involved in any kind of project work, especially multiple project work. Unfortunately, while juggling many projects at a time used to be the hallmark of senior executives in the workforce, it is obvious that just about everyone who lives and breathes in a work or an academic environment is stretched to the limits with multi-tasking today.
As human beings, we were never really designed for the amounts of stress hormones in our bodies that this creates. Worse, we were certainly not designed to be bathed in all those electronics from morning to night. So our health suffers. Will suffer. Has suffered. You are just somewhere on that continuum whether you like it or not.
We are exposed to raised stress levels that have less and less chance to come down at weekends, as once we could do. We are affected by electronic disruptions to our physiology that now are continuous so that we do not recover overnight, as once we could do. These stress levels, albeit at a low level, border on a low-grade version of being under assault, all the time. We are so used to it that we are just that – used to it. It feels normal.
Blackberry, iPhone, constant flow of emails. We have been talking about how this has increased levels of client and colleague expectations of turnaround time – and consequently stress levels – that we first experienced with the advent of the fax machine in the 1980’s, and around the same time with the development of voice mail!
When I email a business contact about something on a Saturday, because I am tidying up loose ends and getting ready for the next week, I am not expecting a reply before Monday morning. I was stunned recently to receive a reply sent Saturday evening, back to me. This happened to be from someone working for a large corporation, and not a small business.
And I suppose I am going to need auto-responder too, since I have full days when I cannot get to email, because of my profession, and I guess now I will have to let people know why I do not reply right away. Where will we be going from here?
So we call – text, email, meet, talk, write – constantly. When is the downtime? When do we give ourselves some offline time, some I-am-not-near an electronic device or computer time?
I learned recently that there are now rehab clinics for Blackberry addicts. We have known for a while about the programs and funding in place to deal with compulsive online gambling, which has attained huge proportions, and about internet addiction, that now has its own category of addiction and clinical treatment protocols.
What can we possibly do about the diminishing ‘quality time’ with others and with ourselves when faced with research findings that show that some teens would far rather text than talk – to buddies or to family. And when – more serious, we fail to find reasons why we should want to reduce our face-to-device time, in the first place?
Actually there are lots of reasons why we need to make some attempt to reduce our close-up time with devices, most of them related to health. The short story has two chapters: increased stress, and messing with our electromagnetic field. Both of which can make us sick while we are not paying attention.
So, where do you stand on the issue – do you want more information or do you want to ignore the subject? Your choice. Here’s to choices, everyone.
Yours in health, from the road. On my computer. Sigh.