Once we wondered whether it was better to have loved and lost, rather than never to have loved at all. Now, in this age of technology, we may be more likely to wonder if it’s better to accept a next generation iPhone from an employer or continue to pay a couple hundred dollars a month for the use of the decidedly low-tech flip-phone we received free with a two-year contract last year.
The decision isn’t as simple as it may seem.
It’s a complex blend of money, prestige and, perhaps most importantly, control–factors that can potentially ruin any relationship.
A friend told me last weekend that her employer offered to provide her an iPhone, at his expense. She declined–but then discovered she was getting one, like it or not, early next year, “to better stay in touch with clients.” That made it clear that chosing the phone isn’t really her choice at all. And that’s a bit unnerving.
When you take an iPhone from someone who issues your paycheck, you’re taking more than a piece of technology. You’re handing over a piece of yourself.
If I sound paranoid, I probably am. I’ve been monitoring my kids’ cell phone accounts far too long to know just how much data it’s possible to obtain from even the most basic equipment. I can only imagine the records it’s possible to amass with a couple of sophisticated hacks on a ‘net enabled phone.
A lifetime ago, back in the unimaginable time before even preschoolers carried cell phones, I worked the overnight shift on the news desk of a major daily newspaper.
In the middle of the night, when I would take my lunch or breakfast or whatever break, I’d always try–unsuccessfully–to leave before anyone could hand me the walkie talkie that tethered me to the desk. It was huge even by the standards of the times–the size of a quart Thermos, and just about as heavy as one, totally full.
I hated the fact that I was an accidental push away from sharing any conversation I might have on my break with anyone in the newsroom. And given that it was 3 am, the odds of accidentally pushing the wrong button were relatively high.
(If it’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep, and the phone is ringing in the White House, who do you want answering the phone? I can tell you right now, you don’t want it to be me.)
I just didn’t like having so much contact, or potential contact, with my employer. (It probably explains why I ultimately went into business for myself. But that’s another story.)
The fact is, it’s important to have boundaries. Work. Life. Family. While there are always times when work and life collide, is it really necessary to keep it all connected 24/7 with an iPhone an employer is paying to provide–and, so, consequently, we feel obligated to answer? And how much self-restraint does it take for an employer to resist taking more than a cursory look at an employee’s monthly equipment use records?
I realize employers have been able to check phone records ever since they began providing employees with standard cell phones. But iPhones represent a new level of sophistication. There’s more possibilities, more data. More ways for employees to make mistakes.
I like iPhones. And I like everything the phones can potentially do. That’s why, when I get one, I’ll pay for it myself. I’ll track my own use, thank you, even if that means I have to pay for it.