Online No One Can Hear You Scream

19 Jul ’06

CNN ran a piece yesterday on the price of being connected. It raises the usual concerns, but one comment in particular struck me:

Time in the virtual world takes us away from time spent in the real world. Though studies are inconclusive and ongoing, some psychologists warn that too much virtual exposure can undercut face-to-face interaction, lead to depression and isolation, and erode our patience.

“We don’t have the tolerance any more to wait,” Rosen said. “Listening to people talk slowly or talk, period — we just can’t tolerate it.”

It’s awfully hard to draw conclusions from anecdotal experience but this jives with my own observations, and is one of the reasons I’m starting to leave the toys behind during personal time. And it links into something else I saw yesterday, from Margaret Wente in the Globe (“I dare you to disconnect”):

A friend has a job as a subordinate. His company is under new management, which immediately issued BlackBerrys to all senior personnel. The rule is, they must carry their BlackBerrys at all times, including weekends and vacations, and must answer all e-mail from the boss within 15 minutes. My friend has a fantasy of flushing his BlackBerry down the toilet, just as soon as he pays off his mortgage.

It’s at moments like this that I’m deeply grateful to have left behind BigLaw, where the intersection of corporatized environments and advances in technology have made these kinds of expectations pretty typical.

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