As social animals, we humans build and thrive on connections in our lives. We have people with whom we connect through family, friends, the workplace, and other regular activities in which we engage, such as going to the grocery store, church, civic activities, socializing with friends, sports & recreation, or whatever.
In today’s world, technology is omnipresent on how people connect with one another. However, there seems to be many people who have let the technology rule their lives rather than the other way around. You see it every day — people who rush to answer their cell phone, walk down the street texting away, yap away while driving a vehicle, immediately respond when their hear an alert that there is a new IM or email message, and admit an addiction to a device they call a “crackberry.”
I was shocked but not surprised to read a Nielsen study and a subsequent article in the New York Times that indicates that U.S. teens, in particular, send or receive more than 2,000 text messages per month. OMG, gimme a break! What disappointed me most was watching a report on the TV news the other night where a teen said, “yeah, the phone is right there, but I don’t use it; I text with five or six friends instead.” The kid is reporting on multi-tasking-texting. What’s the world coming to?
Do you share my annoyance in this situation: you are speaking with someone face-to-face, then their cell phone or Blackberry chirps. They immediately grab it to answer or read a message, dropping your conversation immediately as if you are totally unimportant and not even there! I find that behavior rude and inappropriate, yet it happens all the time.
Several years ago, I attended a training class that at first I thought was another H.R. Department waste-time requirement for “staff development.” I picked a class that I thought would be the shortest. It was on how to manage email. It turned out to be very worthwhile!
I learned a major lesson from that class that I employ to this day: when I want to read email, I turn it on and go look for it. But I don’t leave it on all the time while at my office — only for about an hour in the morning and an hour or so in the afternoon. Further, I have asked my staff by telling them not to send me email unless they are transmitting a document or forwarding a message. If they have something to ask me about, my office is just a few steps down the hall. Come see me! Let’s talk!
At home, I manage communications about the same way — I allow for a limited amount of time each evening for email, then I turn it off. That way, I manage my time with email, rather than have it manage me.
Same goes for the phone. Some of my family and friends get frustrated with me because they call and I do not answer. Since my cell phone is provided by my employer, I consider it something for work. When I get home, I turn it off and plug it into the charger, and leave it for the next day. I just forget about it. Don’t send me a text message on it; it is not likely I will even see it, much less respond.
I am one of those rare individuals who still has a “landline.” I believe that is important since cellular technology is the first to fail when disaster strikes. Anyway, I manage my landline as well. I turn the ringer off during dinnertime. If anyone calls when my partner and I are eating, they can leave a message. If they call when we are sleeping, they can leave a message. If they call and we’re busy, they can leave a message. I don’t run for the phone if it rings — so if you call and I don’t answer, it does not necessarily mean that I am not home. It means that I am busy with something else and choose not to answer the phone right then. It’s not personal. I will call back when I choose. If the time I choose to return a call does not fit your schedule, then we may play “phone tag” for a while, but unless it is a life-or-death matter, it can wait….
I do not use any Instant Messaging (IM) system. I find it very annoying and intrusive. If I want to have an electronic conversation with someone, I may use email. But I just don’t have time nor interest in “I-M-ing.” Same goes for newer methods of communication, such as Twitter. Interesting, etc., but not for me. Things like that could easily become addictive and consuming. I have better things to do with my time.
I deliberately choose when to connect with the outside world via personal or electronic means. I don’t let the technology control my life, but rather, use it as a tool for me to connect with others. After all, that’s why the technology was invented — despite the claims of the marketers from the latest communications gadget.
You know, back in the old days (when I was on a first-name basis with Julius Caesar in Latin class), it was a pleasure to hang over the back fence and chat with a neighbor, or visit in person at a friend’s home, or sit with my sister and play Parchesi while discussing life. Life rolled along just fine when people didn’t have technology that they allowed to get so out of control.
Life is short: manage how you use technology for your connections — don’t let it manage you!