Last week a few our team members and I had gone out of state on a business trip. I had kept my phone on until the flight attendants mentioned that we had to turn off all electronics. At that last moment, I checked my emails for the last time just to see if there was anything I could respond to prior to the plane taking off and sighing a sigh of relief when I saw that wifi was available on the plane. Once the plane started to move I felt relaxed as I enjoy flying. As per habit, I checked my phone fifteen minutes since I had shut it off. Pressing the home button on my phone I realized that my phone was off and actually smiled for a moment, as it felt good to be disconnected and have a legitimate excuse. I fell asleep by the time the plane was in the air (give me a break in was a red eye flight) and did not open my eyes until half an hour before the plane started it’s descend. For a moment I felt like I should have taken a short nap so I could have attended to my emails and such but then I thought to myself, you know what, its okay.
Having access to the Internet at all times is so important and it is becoming more and more readily available. At the same time I feel as though our work life balance is being compromised. The ability to be connected at all times makes us feel obliged to be connected at all times. Whether it is a quick email check at our child’s soccer game or reviewing our presentation notes on our computer right before we fall asleep. All our data is on a “cloud” and this cloud is constantly hanging over us following us. I met up with one of my schoolmates at a bar last week and he mentioned that even when on vacation— he is expected to work at least 25% of the time. What kind of vacation is that? To make matters worse—the job market is tough right now so to stay in the game and keep your position secure, you have to work more and do more than your peers, perhaps working 35% of the time when you’re on vacation. Growing up, I loved new technology and the increased access to the Internet as that meant watching movies on the plane and finishing up a last minute homework assignment. I could keep busy and did not have to sit and twiddle my thumbs on a long car ride. The option to work was nice but I never felt like I was obliged to do it as I feel many do now including myself.
The expectation of staying connected from wherever you are scares me at times. There is no excuse for not being on top of things. If you have to leave work early for a doctor’s appointment, that is okay because you can login when you get home and finish what was left off. Yes, this is a good thing, but sometimes you just do not feel like doing it. Before the use of cellphones, we could say that we were not at home to take a call or at the office. Once cellphones came into play there was an excuse of not being near a computer to check email. With Smartphones that is no longer the case. There was the concern of going over the data plan, but now wifi is readily available. Not having a charger does not work either because for example at the airport, there are many outlets and you like many others can be on your phone while it charges and you’re waiting for your plane. The same goes for the car. Perhaps the excuse of the not having an outlet will completely diminish, as soon there could be technology to charge multiple items at a time without the use of an outlet. What come’s next? When using your smartphone as a GPS for example, the ability to charge on the go is great! Last thing you want is for your phone to die on you right before the exit you are supposed to take. At the same time, with all these conveniences it gets harder and harder to put down the technology and just take a walk outside or play a game of golf. How often do we go out for dinner and more than communicating amongst those who are present are we busy texting, Facebook-ing, Instagram-ing, or reading the news? How sad is that? We are all guilty of this and to be honest it’s no one person’s fault as it seems as though this is a culture shift that is taking place. If the person in front of me with which I have come for dinner with whips out their phone, I will too do the same. So what do we do about it? We cannot change the way the world works or get others to live their lives the way we do. We can only control the actions of ourselves and perhaps those we take responsibility for and those who look up to us. As I realized on the red eye flight, nothing will give you more happiness then disconnecting for an hour at minimum from the world to focus on yourself and the ones around you. That does not mean to put your phone on silent and keep it in your pocket. It should be in a place away from you. And no, this does not mean that you sit and watch television with your family. This means spending quality time. Read a book or play a board game. I know that may sound lame but although thriving for success brings great pleasure, life is all about the experiences. Maybe your child will remember how everyday no matter what, you always sat down with them to do whatever it is they wanted—be it read a book or bake cupcakes. In fact, this may be more memorable than getting a new shiny toy for Christmas. Think of this way—when you reminisce to “back in the day” do you think about a particular gift that was given to you for your birthday or baking cupcakes for your classmates on your special day? Life is too short. That’s a fact. Everything we work so hard for can be gone in the blink of an eye—we can be gone in the blink of an eye. My final words of advice: technology is great and growing rapidly but make these new inventions and the ability to stay connected work for you in your best interest—do not let inanimate objects take control of you.