Monday, August 06, 2007

My Life or Whose?

For the last two years, I established some strict rules for separation of work and life and worked consistently to preserve those rules. Since taking the new job I’ve found myself surrounded by people, who, despite having homes and families, give themselves over wholly to work. They continue work at absurd hours and on holidays.

Recently, I found myself getting caught up in their anxiety as it suddenly seems urgent that I check my email at night and on the weekend. My cell phone, lately, has doubled as an office extension.

One of the higher-ups, I understand, only has time to think up creative tasks for me at 5:30 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m., but the other night calling and leaving a message at 8:46 p.m. while I am in a movie topped all previous calls. And was as much the task he called with as the time he called.

8:46 p.m. on a Friday night is insane.

I cursed like my friend had never heard me curse when I listened to the message and then proceeded to stew about it all weekend. I made the conscious decision that I would return the call after I arrived at work on Monday morning.

Is setting a personal limit and sticking to it passive aggressive?

Not at all.

Non-emergency phone calls outside the work-day violate me as a person and undermine my value as a professional. His own sacrifice of his personal life does not justify his disregard for my personal life, nor do I give him permission to do so. {My career sometimes does involve emergency responses and thus my phone stays on all night and next to my bed – but in those cases the call values the contribution I can make to a crisis unlike the phone calls asking what time I’m free for a meeting on a day later the next week.}

Technology does us no favors when it invades our personal time with career expectations. Fewer and fewer people understand when I explain to them that “who” they are consists of much more than the “job” they do. Email, texts, cell phones, and the devices that allow constant and immediate communication truly diminish the whole person we become when we are with family, friends, and community.

I’m certainly no Luddite. I like my technology. I just bought a newer, faster laptop with even more efficient wireless abilities, so I can stay connected in more places than before.

Hell…I write this blog.

I spend time every day reading other blogs I enjoy. One truth that emerged to me more than I imagined it would after my trip to New York to meet some fellow bloggers, knowing the person is even better than reading the writing. I enjoy the blogs of those people I met at the gathering exponentially more than I did before. I can hear the voice, imagine the inflection, and see the expression like I never could when I just read the words on the screen.

Beyond my personal experience with meeting other bloggers, I have been hearing on the news of other bloggers gathering to meet one another.

All of us geeks, be we technology geeks, political geeks, or just geek geeks, still yearn for the human contact.

That does not mean being a geek at a busy Starbucks.

Sometimes we communicate best when we set down our devices and pick up a beer (or a burger) together.

I encourage others to set down the work phone and blackberry when the work-day is over. It will be ok to return the call or text in the morning.

And if the world ends because you don’t return the call or text, who’s really gonna care at that point?

Now playing: Johnny Cash - In My Life
via FoxyTunes

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