Thursday, 29 March 2012

I'll Just Check My Email

When the phone used to ring at home, my siblings and I would all rush off to answer it. My mother would take a much more leisurely approach, saying "The phone is my servant; I am not its". This was an attitude which, especially when teenagers, we regarded with horror, bordering on awe.

These days, most of us have a smartphone, but not all of us allow it to take over our lives. I now completely understand where my mother was coming from; after business hours, a phone is a tool for my convenience; not for others'. I live in the country, have only a cellphone and my reception isn't great, so calls often go to my answer service. I also have it on silent so I can see it flashing when ringing, but it doesn't disturb my concentration, and turn my phone off regularly on the weekends. It's my servant, remember?

Worldwide, the trend of answering work emails and calls at any hour of the day or night on your smartphone is being challenged in some interesting places. Brazil is implementing a new law where employees qualify for overtime when they answer work emails via smartphones after hours. The legislation states that company emails to employees are now seen as direct orders. In 2011, policeman Jeffrey Allen sued Chicago for overtime compensation for his 24/7 connectivity. A French IT company will phase out sending company emails after hours to its staff by next year. German carmaker Volkswagen also is planning to stop after hours emails, with Deutsche Telekom and Henkel considering the same response.

So where does all this get us?

Well, we can get a bit obsessed about technology, and obsession about anything isn't healthy. Some of us should think about reducing the amount to which technology can take over our lives; the desire to be so continuously connected that we can't be solely real-world people any more.

As Peter Griffin said in an NZ Herald article "Let's hit the virtual pause button for a minute and consider what our digital lives have become. Many of us now spend our days with our head in the high-tech "clouds"." Quite true. I was off the web yesterday and wandered around feeling quite lost. Bizarrely, nearly every work task I needed to do required the internet.

Peter goes on to say "...there's that nagging voice telling us that despite our unprecedented connectedness, we sometimes feel more overwhelmed and, ironically, disconnected, than ever before. While it's easy to blame technology for taking us away from the people and things we love, in truth we're often our own worst enemy." Then he asks five questions "Do you sometimes feel the urge to pull out your phone while someone else is talking to you? Have you ever realised that you were texting or reading email while your child was telling you about her day and later couldn't remember her story? Have you ever felt that something hasn't really happened until you post it online? Do you feel anxious if you're offline for any length of time? Does a ringing phone trump everything else?"

Well, Peter went cold turkey from the web, and then wrote a four-step "digital diet" book with the time he created. Hmmm. I would imagine he wrote it on his computer. And he wouldn't have been able to write it without using the internet...

But what Peter suggests it is a good reality check for each and every one of us. Use tools in moderation. Relationships with real people are more important that virtual people. Nothing is ever so important that we can't have time for recreation, being human and "face-time".

Ooo - is that my phone I hear ringing?!

References
  • TVNZ (13 January 2012). Answering work emails after hours begins to pay. Retrieved 15 January 2012 from http://tvnz.co.nz/technology-news/answering-work-emails-after-hours-begins-pay-4686184
  • Griffin, Peter (15 January 2012). Obsessively absorbed in a digital world. NZ: NZ Herald. Retrieved 15 January 2012 from http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10778797 

Sam

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