Friday, August 8, 2014

Deciding Which End of the Electronic Leash To Be On

I have recently acquired a shiny new tablet.  One of the interesting things is that once I connected it to my Google account, it began to port over the games and apps I had downloaded.  I started adding or deleting things to customize the different devices.  The tablet, for example, is much better for netflix and several of the games I like.  I find that even though the screen is smaller, the phone works much better for chat and messaging.

I've been making choices about it based on the different roles I want each device to play, and it's been interesting to evaluate my changing relationship with technology.  Today was a pretty significant choice:  I am not going to set up my work email access from my tablet.

This goes to a deeper set of decisions I'm making about it, congruent with the fact that I got it in part to help me sort and manage my pictures (I may not be able to get tablet lightroom, but I *can* review and sort the pics so I know which ones go in the 'processing' folder and which ones go in the "I will probably never do anything with this" folder) and keep some books and movies on for downtime.  Eventually there may be podcasts, and I've already loaded a substantial chunk of my music onto it.  But I'm finding myself being very mindful of what I put on it, as far as 'productivity' goes.  Maybe I don't want to use it to increase my productivity further.

One of the defining characteristics of Gen X, more so than those who came before or after us, is that we wrestle with the changing role of technology in our lives, as it moves (for some) from servant to master.  When I graduated high school in 1991, computer literacy was a rarity.  Five years after high school, as I was looking to enter the professional workforce, suddenly computer literacy was a basic requirement.  Every desk at every job, every classroom, every home now had a computer, and life began to be increasingly affected by your ability to navigate your relationship with it.  The more you could integrate technology to 'work smarter' and get more done and be more accessible, the more likely it was you'd succeed.

Several of my first temp jobs used dialup e-mail accounts, so that you had to remember, once an hour or so, to sign on and check the company e-mail.  There was rarely any, but you had to check it anyway.  If you forgot you could still blame 'server problems' for a two-day delay and no one questioned it.  Today I can receive work e-mails minutes after they're sent pretty much anywhere, anytime, and my employer operates on that premise.

I have made the transition, as an adult, from having to seek out communication and connection to having to seek out opportunities to disconnect.  I have adapted to the world as it is, and I tend to appreciate the benefits of that connection.  But as I hear things like "I sent you a text and you didn't reply right away," or "I know you got my e-mail on your phone, why didn't you answer?" I start to wonder if I'll be among the last generation to feel that an individual has the right to set the speed of communication and response.

Lately my phone's been a source of mild anxiety for me.  If I want to play a game or check a website, it perkily lets me know that I have a voice mail, and an e-mail, and a couple of text messages, and a new update to download, and and and...

Its effectiveness lies in it maintaining that constant pipeline so that I can know, at a glance, what the world needs me to know.  The problem has been that I can't *give* that glance without getting the whole fire hose.

Enter the tablet.  It is purely for leisure, for doing things that feed me socially, personally, culturally, and intellectually.  I am deliberately choosing to use it in a wholly selfish manner.  The phone is a tool for communication, connectivity, awareness.  It shouts for my attention and points things out to me.  I'm considering uninstalling all the games and timewasters from it, so that it can be purely for staying in touch with the world. The laptop and desktop computers are for work, for things that require my words most of all, because 90 wpm on a keyboard is far preferable to 30 wpm on a tablet, and because that allows me to say "Now I will sit down, and I will work."

I'm really looking forward to the division of leisure and productivity.  With the tablet, there are no conversations I tell myself I need to be following, no messages I'm chiding myself for not having the time to respond to, no notifications that People Need Me To Tell Them Things, no work I probably ought to be doing.  I can enjoy connectivity on my terms, with the whole array of available knowledge laid out before me, or simply a mindless color-matching game to clear my head.

Over the next few years, I'm going to be closely watching my relationship with technology, as connectivity and access increase, to make sure that I don't blur too many lines between work and play, between my time and others' time, between what I want to do and what I feel obligated to do.   I expect this to be a large part of the social battlefield, the fight between whether technology gives the world the ability to control you, or gives you the ability to control the world.  I will remain firmly upon the side of "My time is mine and you can't use an electronic leash to demand my focus unless I choose to give it to you."

No comments:

Post a Comment