I recently received a promotion that entitles me to a company smart phone. My reaction to the phone isn’t what you might expect. A colleague put it best, asking, “have they given you the tether yet?” I’m not sure that I want to be reachable at all times, though this is an expectation of my new role. Many people can relate. Lately, I’ve found fellow members of the “wired” generation taking extreme measures to disconnect.
A friend recently told me about some property they purchased in the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas. My friend described the setting – wooded hills, a gently babbling brook, and a small clearing perfect for a rustic cabin. But she got really excited when describing one key feature: there is no cell phone reception. No phone, no internet, just nature – a novel thought for the 21st century.
But what happens when you get back from vacation, and all that email has accumulated? I was recently out for just two days. I returned to 88 unread messages (although, I’m sure other readers can easily beat that number). The next day was devoted to responding to email. Unfortunately, many of my contacts received a one or two word response – yes, no, maybe, thank you. These communications are often less useful than silence.
An exasperated colleague recently forwarded a great article from the Harvard Business Review, titled The Responsiveness Trap. The writer critiques those constantly connected guys that make it harder for the rest of us to maintain our sanity. Remember that old advice to respond to any email that can be addressed immediately. Too many people take that as an invitation to respond without contemplating the actual question. Then you have to respond and explain the
situation. Then there’s another email volley. What could have been addressed in one 10-second conversation is now a chain of a half-dozen emails. The writer describes the the need to face ignored emails with profuse apology – even more to message to check tomorrow.
What is the future of communication? Have people so abused this means of conversation that generations will turn away from constant connectivity? How do you manage your inbox? On vacation, do you prefer to maintain complete separation between work and pleasure? Please add your comments below.