I used to fantasize about the ability to save the hour we gain by turning the clocks back each fall. Now I fantasize about the ability to save the countless hours that I lose to technology.
One more email…one more text message…one more website…one more minute to fax a document, print a form, message a colleague, research a topic, contact tech support or make a free long distance call. All those minutes add up, transforming technology that’s supposed to save time to the source of long work days, missed appointments and lost sleep.
In the interest of convenience, we’ve increased access to ourselves…and increased inconvenience. The opportunity to disrupt, not support, what we’re doing. It reminds me what my grad school advisor used to tell me–that when computers came out everybody said ‘great, it’s going to save all this paper’. But really it’s just made it easier for us to use MORE paper! Now I know it’s not all bad. And there are good things about being hyper-connected. But I for one covet that free time and long to find a way to get it back.
We’ve gone from dawn to dusk to always on, from work and home to work even-when-you’re-home.
An estimated 8 million adults have ADHD and the diagnosis is being made more and more frequently. Do they all have a psychological disorder that makes them inattentive, poorly organized, easily distracted and forgetful–or do their cell phones, PDAs, iPods and netbooks just make them seem inattentive, poorly organized, easily distracted and forgetful?
From etiquette experts to senior executives at Microsoft, a growing number of people say wireless Internet access is becoming an annoyance-a technology that could potentially become more annoying than cell phones or pagers. They point to the alarming number of attendants at technology conferences and even internal office meetings who ignore speakers to focus on personal e-mail or Web surfing.
One would assume that this preponderance of advanced communication technology would promote a well-informed and close-knit society. While this is true to some extent and there are many benefits to be gained from these technologies, author Maggie Jackson surprisingly has found that compared to past generations, we are in fact less capable of quality analytical thinking, more ignorant about many issues, and more fragmented as a community. In her book, Distracted, she makes the point that never before have we been so disconnected.
It didn’t happen overnight. Consider the observation of Stephen Kern, who noted “The present is no longer limited to one event in one place, sandwiched tightly between past and future and limited to local surroundings. In an age of intrusive electronic communication ‘now’ became an extended interval of time that could, indeed must, include events around the world.”
But Kern wrote that in 1983–and he was remarking about the sweeping changes in technology and culture between 1880 and World War I.
Now the effects are just more intense, enhanced by both the quanity and quality of technologies at our disposal–making it easier and easier to surf, call, search or text, anytime and anywhere. Just 15 years ago, most people, when asked how they were doing, would say “good.” Today’s answer is much more likely, “busy.” The state of mind has become a state of time. And time continues to be elusive.