One debate that has come up since the earliest days of proselytizing the TeleInterActive Lifestyle has been whether or not having remote access, and especially mobile and wireless access to your business and personal data, adds to or detracts from your effectiveness in either personal or business situations. Our contention has always been that it's a matter of focus.
As hand-held email devices proliferate, they are having an unexpected impact on family dynamics: Parents and their children are swapping roles. Like a bunch of teenagers, some parents are routinely lying to their kids, sneaking around the house to covertly check their emails and disobeying house rules established to minimize compulsive typing. The refusal of parents to follow a few simple rules is pushing some children to the brink. They are fearful that parents will be distracted by emails while driving, concerned about Mom and Dad's shortening attention spans and exasperated by their parents' obsession with their gadgets. Bob Ledbetter III, a third-grader in Rome, Ga., says he tries to tell his father to put the BlackBerry down, but can't even get his attention. "Sometimes I think he's deaf," says the 9-year-old.
-- from The Wall Street Journal Online, BlackBerry Orphans, by Katherine Rosman, 2006 December 8; Page W1
Good Morning, Silicon Valley picked up on this WSJ article too...
Of course, for a while at the Balsillie home, Jim was being told to park his BlackBerry at the door when he came home. And of course, he snuck it in. Adults -- what are you gonna do with 'em?
-- from GMSV, C'mon, Mom, I know you're texting in there and I really need to go by John Murrell on 2006 December 8
The opposite is also true. I know 5 year olds who can't imagine not being able to contact their parent at any time during the business day via mobile phone, IM, or email. And the ability to order a meal to be picked-up on the way home from, well, wherever, has no doubt saved many a middle-class family from starvation.
One friend of mine is very much opposed to allowing work into her home after hours - but to meet those long deadlines, she'll be at the work place for 12, 14 or even more hours a day, balancing that with taking afternoons off for soccer games. Which balance works better: longer away but fuller attention, or partial attention in each place?
Since the beginning of this blog, the image that we've tried to evoke is that of pre-industrial age community living. You might be sitting around the fire, listening to a story being told by your child, while mending a leather harness. The problem with this image as an analogy for modern work practices is the level of the brain's involvement. You might be able to divide your attention between something that requires dexterity and even attention to detail, but doesn't require understanding words. But try to read something and listen to someone speak... it doesn't work as well.
As we've said before, thank the designers of all these wonderful devices that they remembered to include the off switch.