Less ubiquity, please

My office is in the Google building so I’ve gotten to see lots of Google Glass beta testers riding up and down the elevators.  My bet is that Google Glass will be a product flop, but that it will be a bit like the space program – the product itself won’t sell much or be relevant to most people, but the underlying technology will probably have a huge impact on our lives.

This may be old fogey-ish of me but I don’t believe that it is just a generational question that keeps me from embracing the notion of ever-present, ever-available access to the web and email and apps with the tilt of my eyes.  Yes, I could imagine that at some not-so-distant date all glasses will come with a camera option (the head is a nice, steady way to take pictures) but I don’t buy the argument we need Google Glass because with it we at least won’t look down at our smartphones when we’re at a restaurant or in a large group.  What matters isn’t where our eyes go, what matters is where our attention lies.

And I suspect that over time we will have to re-teach our children the skill of sustained attention, the skill of having an empty moment and not doing anything with it, the skill of intense conversation and real listening.  Did you know that the average teen sends 3,000 texts a month?

In today’s world we all are continually experimenting with the lines between connection / productivity / responsiveness and distraction / rudeness.  Two colleagues of mine suggested the following four rules for managing incoming email and handheld devices, which I liked:

  1. Turn off desktop alerts of new emails coming in (the little box that pops up)  (in Outlook: File > Options > Mail > Message Arrival > Uncheck “Display a Desktop Alert”)
  2. No reading email before breakfast
  3. No reading email while in transit
  4. No phone or email in the bedroom

My own scorecard is as follows:

  1. I turned of desktop alerts for new emails about a month ago and I love it.
  2. I almost never read email before breakfast and when I do it’s a sign that I’m under a crazy deadline or stressed for some other reason.
  3. Hmmm.  I made a rule a couple of years ago not to look at my phone while in elevators, and I’ve stuck to that (it had become a reflex), but I spend enough time in transit that I don’t know that I can commit to this one.
  4. I do have my phone in the bedroom but I can honestly say it’s 95% as a time-piece and alarm

 

In reality these four rules are a really low bar.  Increasingly I think we will all be playing with the limits and rules that work for us, and everyone’s line will be different.  What makes me nervous is when I get reflexive about checking.  That sort of unconscious behavior feels unproductive.

 

I remember a year ago I was on a family vacation and my wife told me how proud she was of me, because one day on vacation I’d let my iPhone battery die.  That should not be seen as a major accomplishment.

2 thoughts on “Less ubiquity, please

  1. I was feeling like “mom of the year” when two weeks ago I decided to not let the t.v. be on in the morning before school and no one was allowed to get on the iPad….until I said my new rules out loud to a couple of people…it’s just not that big of a deal….I am the parent….:) I’m turning off the desktop alert now and will practice not checking e-mail before work (or as soon as I open my eyes in the morning).

  2. Leading To Serve » Blog Archive » 3,000 texts a month vs. 3 words a minute

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