Don’t get me wrong, I think smartphones are great. We’re carrying supercomputers in our pockets that now replace several things.

But there are some downsides I’m concerned about. Sure there are possibly long-term health effects that have yet to be realized, but I’m talking about the most immediate issue. The fact that you’re expect to respond in a moment’s notice to EVERYTHING. I think it is blocking people’s ability to be in the moment, because they’re constantly being harassed and interrupted.

Expectation of Instant Response

We’ve imposed a new standard of response time. To be fair this started with ubiquitous cellphones when they just made calls. How many times have you heard someone say, “Why do you carry a cell phone if you don’t answer it?!?” The answer is almost always, “It’s for emergencies.” There may be a retort such as, “What if my call was an emergency?” or similar. I’ve found myself making the same arguments with Jessi. I wish I realized how stupid I sounded.

Smartphones have just amplified this imposition across multiple channels. Instead of talk & text we now have Slack, Facebook, Twitter, email, and a slew of other things. Several of those services track whether you’re online or not and show the delivery status of the message – whether or not your eyeballs have gazed upon it. But we’re just staying better connected with our friends right??

Work never rests

I’ve added accounts for work and volunteer groups to my phone. Now the personal expectation of response has tripled. But is it necessary? The expectation isn’t just my own. If I were to ignore the messages during off-hours (which I frequently do), I’m likely to get called on it.

I’ve heard from people who say, don’t keep/charge your phone by your beside. I understand those that replaced their clock radio with a phone aren’t going to do that, but there’s some wisdom in that advice. Some people who keep them by their bed are using them during sex – sounds risqué, but I don’t think they’re using them in that way.

Setting some rules

First we need to restore the voice call as king – it is the most important method of communicating remotely. If you have something important to say that can’t wait, you should do it with a regular old phone call. I hope that this value will be passed on to the next generation, but I feel that it’s an opportunity already lost 🙁

If you miss someone when they’ve gone to the store. You could text them. But why not just jot down what you wanted them to get so you can get it next time? Stuff can wait.

If you have a job, they probably have core hours. If you were there during core hours, and you’re not specifically “on-call” – go ahead and let things wait until tomorrow. If it’s really important, they can call about it. Work can wait.

Sometimes this isn’t enough – you may have to clarify things with people you interact with. This may mean you have to ask your company to put their expectations in writing, or better yet, in their job contract. This might mean more workplaces will require you to respond on moment’s notice 24/7, but I hope not.

So next time when something important needs to be done, actually phone it in – don’t text, instant message, snap chat, or email. Important messages deserve their own voice.

3 thoughts on “The lament of the smartphone

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