A cover story in USA Today examines the 24/7 nature of work these days thanks to the presence of smartphones, tablets, and every other digital device imaginable to insure that you’re available to The Man every moment of every day.
While I enjoy the cool features of my smartphone and Ipad, I realized long ago that my dependency on these devices was slowly taking over my life and the lives of everyone around me.
I first noticed the dangers by observing my husband’s relationship with his Blackberry. From the moment he bought that phone, it went everywhere with him, even to bed. Some nights, I’d wake up to see his figure hunched over a faint light emitting from the device as he typed madly with his thumbs. When I say “night,” I’m not talking 10pm. I’m talking 2am or 3am. This was not one way messaging either. It was clear he was actually communicating with another person.
The next morning I’d ask him.
“Who were you texting in middle of the night?”
“A client,” he’d reply. “They had a question.”
This didn’t just happen in the middle of the night. We’d go on vacations to the beach, and there he’d be typing or talking business the entire time. To call it a “vacation” was a huge misnomer. I consider a “vacation” sitting by the hotel pool with my latest copy of In Style magazine while summoning the staff to bring me an alcoholic beverage with just enough fruit in it to satisfy my quest for healthy living. Just being outside by the ocean if I’m working is still working in my book even if the pool staff brings you a drink now and then.
Cell coverage has also been a huge issue. On one “vacation,” we flew to the Turks & Caicos only to turn around the next day when my husband discovered he couldn’t get a good cell signal. He tried to make himself feel better that he’d actually “vacationed” by sitting outside in the sun the entire time we were there until his entire body looked like crisply cooked bacon. Thankfully, we were able to get off the island before he required medical treatment for third degree burns.
Another time, we tried Grand Cayman Island. Again, the cell coverage was poor and we were back home so fast I had to look at what was left of my ticket stub to convince myself that I’d really been there.
The worst was a trip to Disney World. My husband agreed to ride the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger spin ride alone. I suspected something unusual in his cheerful agreement to ride solo. My suspicions were confirmed at the end of the ride when the photo taken of his ride experience showed him texting on his Blackberry.
There is also meal time. I don’t care if it’s a State Dinner, these days everyone I know puts their smartphone next to their dinner plate as though it’s required in order to complete the place setting. Then they answer it if it rings as if the living breathing human beings sitting there don’t exist.
For example, I could be in midsentence, “Yes, the doctor doesn’t think I’ll make it because I have terminal . . . .” RRRINNGG. Before I can form the first letter of my ailment, up goes my dining companion’s finger as a polite way to get me to shut up while they “take the call.” Then I sit there like an idiot. I might as well already be dead.
Occasionally, in this situation, I’ll pull out my own smartphone and start texting myself. I don’t want to look like some loser with nothing to do. What I’m forgetting is that when I text someone else, I’m furthering the never ending chain where the person I text is now probably having to throw up her finger to shut up her dining companion in order to answer me. On and on and on it goes.
Besides assuming to be constantly available to the entire world, there is also the strange etiquette associated with these devices. For example, there is no good way to end a text without risking being rude. Sometimes, I’ll be texting someone and they’ll just disappear.
“What happened?” I wonder, “Did I say something they didn’t like? Are they mad at me? Did they just get run over by a truck because they were texting me from the crosswalk and they weren’t paying attention?”
At the very least, I think there should be an internationally recognized acronym for “I’m not texting you anymore but no hard feelings.”
So many sci-fi books and movies predict a time when robots and computers defeat the human race. Since I can’t possibly see any of us ever giving up these devices, I’d say that day has already come.