Three Perspectives on Constant Connectivity

July 8, 2012

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.

Arkansas River Valley

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.

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  • Ken,

    Great article and so true. I have been trying hard to disconnect wherever possible lately, especially off of working hours. I have been reading some great books and blogs to help:


    The Power of Slow
    The Power of Less


    Hands Free Mama

    Thanks again!

    Anthony Fasano

  • It seems to me that some folks who take a few days off just delete much of what arrives during that time, in part they also have an auto-response indicating they are away. If it was important, another e-mail will come soon enough.

    Power and phone service cut out at the house during BIG storms on 29 June. Storms that took out some of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and then got a lot of attention for keeping Virginia and DC in the dark through Independence Day. Even in the +100F temps, it was quite relaxing to sit under a tree and read a book, ink on paper, no Kindle.

    Years ago when I was in the Peace Corps and marveled at the time with no TV or computer. The short wave radio was a treat and writing letters to send via mail worked wonders for the soul. The Internet as a common tool in the office and home took hold in that time, 1993 to 1995. These days I suspect those in Peace Corps can e-mail from most villages they are in if not an hour or two away by walking (oh my would anyone walk that far in the US?). I do know volunteers these days have cell phones for security purposes.

    How soon until the promotion when you have someone under you answering your calls and taking messages for you? It may be best to be more responsive until that promotion occurs.

    I plan to check back at this blog in another two minutes to see who has responded!

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