Connectedness and Real Time

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?

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