Geesh. Whatever happened to the days when we called each other to say “Hi”? I even have to email my friends days in advance to organize friend-time for a chat. And god help them if they need to speak with me during my workday. It’s almost as if picking up the phone is an intrusion. Indeed, when my phone rings now it’s either a telemarketing call (yes, unfortunately they still exist), a wrong number, or my dentist’s office.
Many things about email are annoying. Emails are relentless, sometimes difficult to interpret at a human level, and ubiquitous. I have more than once sent unfortunate responses that have mangled business relationships. Even the length of the email is a problem. The long ones go partially unread given the hundreds of others fighting for my attention. The ones that don’t have something I’m familiar with in the subject line get left to the end. And when I send them, I’m always aware that if I write too much, I’ll also be diminished cuz I won’t fit into someone’s iPhone screen.
Technology is biasing every relationship, every communication, every thought and feeling and connection. We get up in the morning, sign onto Facebook (if we ever signed off), and tell the world we’re awake and brushing our teeth (and we assume the world will care!). Then we grab a cuppa, and either go straight to our desks, or sign onto our computers at Starbucks. And then somehow, it’s 7:00 pm. Hundreds and hundreds of emails in and out. All kinds of relationships to be remembered. I have begun blaming my ‘advanced age’ for not remembering things I’ve said or promises I’ve made. “Oops, I’m so sorry I forgot that you were the one who I promised the book to – it’s my old brain that forgets, not my intent. And, yes, I mistakenly sent the book to someone else, but I can get it back if i can remember who I sent it to.” Kidding, of course. But just barely.
Online I date, prospect, collaborate, meet new colleagues, pay my bills, talk with scientists in far-away countries, have family fights, develop and run webinars and podcasts, write articles with colleagues, share laughter with friends, send flowers and birthday presents, make travel arrangements. I think new thoughts, and moments later they are available all over the world. Disturbingly my life is lived on line, in front of anyone who wants to follow it.
Is my life easier? Nope. I haven’t swept my floor in weeks, and don’t have the time to stop long enough to find someone to clean it for me. I’ve got stacks of stuff – where did it all come from? – piled all around, I can’t find my desk, and my in-box is full. I have no idea what it’s full of, since I certainly don’t have time to look through it. I do manage to get to the gym every day, so I get sunlight on my face during the 2 block walk. Somehow I manage to eat. Thankfully, the Whole Foods flagship store is right around the corner; on Sundays I stock up on take-out containers so I don’t have to cook anymore or leave the office to forage through my fridge that seems to be filled with old containers with fuzzy green stuff inside. At 9:45 p.m. I turn everything off, wash up, and sit down to watch Jon Stewart before passing out in front of the TV. And of course, I get up the next day and repeat the whole thing again.
Do we really want to live our lives this way? I know it’s not just me. What is happening? Is it the computer? Is it the 24-hour access? I feel like I’m in a race all the time, a race that leaves me feeling inadequate, guilty, drained, and always losing. Every Sunday evening, I put a new stack of books next to my desk to remind myself to take off half a day – half a day to read 4 books!?!? – so I can be creative and think new thoughts! But of course I can never find that day off.
I am a thinker. But I have no time to think. On the weekends I turn off all technology (or I’m sure I would die), go to my country home, and lie in the hammock and drool. By Sunday afternoon, I’m a normal person again, but then it’s too late to think, or create. I’m barely ready for Monday to begin.
Do I have to retire to think? Or will I never think again because my brain will be fried by the time I retire? Or will I never retire cuz I have never had the time to fill out the medicare and social security forms?
Exhausting. I miss the good old days. Truly.