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Connectedness and Real Time

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My cell phone is just a phone. It doesn’t have a camera and I can’t get online with it. I prefer it that way. I generally prefer not using it at all, in fact. I’m a big believer in asynchronous communication in most situations. I save my real time for the people I’m close to and, if it’s absolutely necessary, for clients.

I’m sure it’s a personality thing, in part, but it also has to do with personal space (of the mental variety) and privacy. These things are essential to me, but I also believe this is the way people are hardwired. The ubiquitousness of cell phone usage goes against this grain, as does today’s Internet culture, with its friendfeeding and lifestreaming and microblogging…

Clients like to communicate in real time. They want what they want right now and they don’t care that, as a web worker, you might be torn in 20 directions and performing amazing mental contortions and juggling acts to keep everything straight.

My husband and I continually try to teach our clients that sending an e-mail is the best way to reach us. For the sake of our sanity and the serenity of our work/home environment, we don’t give out our phone numbers, IM addresses, or any information that would make us instantly reachable if we can avoid it. We usually can avoid it.

Today most people seem unable to disconnect, whether they’re online all the time like us web workers, or walking around with their mobile Internet devicestalking, texting, e-mailing pictures, following each other around with loopt (the application whose very clever tagline is “Your Social Compass”). If you ask me, though, I think we’ve lost our compass. I can’t help but think that the “real” has gone out of real-time communication.

Maybe it’s a generational issue. Those who came of age in an era when they could communicate instantaneously and play games live with strangers on other continents seem completely comfortable with constant connectedness. They even seem to need it.

In practical terms, the only downside I see in this societal trend is the increasing expectation that you should be available to all people all the time. It’s hard enough for web workers to draw the line between the mental energy, space and time devoted to work and play without this added pressure.

What have been the effects of connectedness on your professional and personal life?

11 Responses to “Connectedness and Real Time”

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. I have a basic little pay as you go phone which lives in my purse and is only switched on if I have a crisis away from home. On our landline we use selective answering to weed out the high volume of telemarketing calls.

  2. Pamela Poole

    Bob, you’re right about that. But youth, with or without enabling technology, and the phrase “rushing headlong” always seem to go hand in hand. It’s not a criticism. We’ve been there. And it was fun! I wouldn’t change a thing.

  3. Amen! Baby boomers that once used payphones and had only the three networks to watch on tv are able to harken back to a much simpler time when we need to disengage from being in the whitewater rapids of instant communication. The beauty is that we know how to navigate them, but we can also intelligently get to the shore and lay in the sun when we need to. Oh, the foibles of youth!

  4. michael

    I have no cell phone, and haven’t used my home phone in weeks (there’s no more room on the answering machine, which is fine, since I never listen to messages anyway).

    Anyone who needs me knows to email me. If there’s an emergency, they can still email me. I’ll probably get it within a day or 2.

    Strange that someone criticizing the ubiquity of constant connectedness carries a phone at all.

  5. Pamela, I think it’s very cool that you can organize your work in such a way that suits your lifestyle. It’s all we hoped for that the web would bring us.

    OK, Loopt might not be for you so you choose e-mail as your primary medium. All these new technologies allow you to manage communication (or even shut off) and therefore manage your life in the way you want it. Use what suits you best. I am pretty sure that in the early days of e-mail people had similar issues like you state above.

  6. “Clients like to communicate in real time. They want what they want right now and they don’t care…”

    Odd, I have the opposite problem. My clients claim to be the ones torn in 20 directions, especially when they’re behind deadline on content approvals/deliveries. (I actually have an easier time getting paid.)

    “ In practical terms, the only downside I see in this societal trend is the increasing expectation that you should be available to all people all the time.”

    …Which is why I’ve refused to get a cell phone, though I expect that I’ll finally join the 21st Century sometime during Q3. Even then, I will reserve the right to turn off the phone.