I think it’s occurred to many of us that all of the things in our life that are intended to make things easier do anything but. Or, they make aspects of life easier but introduce their own problems. A friend of mine was saying that the problem with technology is that we get attached to this idea that new technologies can and will solve all of our problems. And while it’s true that they might solve specific problems, they also bring their own sets of problems.
I’m going to talk more about work here than science, but I do want to note that there are many examples of things being quickly created and rapidly adopted, only to be found to be vastly harmful. Like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which devour ozone and were for a long time the go-to compound used in refrigerators, aerosol cans, air conditioners. These have been phased out of current production, but efforts at regulating existing CFC levels have been largely … well, there hasn’t been much effort to regulate existing CFC levels.
I know, from watching old TV shows, that there was a time when it was considered rude to contact someone around dinnertime. Obviously a relic of a time when you were only really calling people in your time zone, or an immediately adjacent one. Now, time is compressed. People can and will call you, text you, email you, anytime of day and expect a response, as immediately as you can send one. Which is why I turned off “Send Read Notification” on my phone. So I don’t feel pressure to respond to something on someone else’s time. So that I can unplug, or at least pretend to myself that I have.
It’s interesting that, where before work-life boundaries were at least in part supported by society, now it’s something you have to work out for yourself. You see articles about “work-life balance.” I’m interested in working in marketing and publicity, and I fully expect there to be a sharp learning curve. I expect to have issues setting boundaries, especially when I’m starting out, because I know myself well enough to know that, in my desire to please people, I might be more accepting of work-creep. I’ll answer emails at two in the morning and step away from dinner to answer phone calls. Because that’s life, right? Especially in certain businesses. You’re never off the clock, even if you’re not at “the office.” If you’re ever at the office, maybe you don’t have an office. You’re always on call. There will always be someone who is pissed off if you don’t respond immediately to some bullshit that you could just as easily have sorted out in the morning, when you were well-rested and on your game. And maybe if you’d waited until the morning, you wouldn’t have called them an asshole over the phone, but you’ll never know now, will you?
Wow, sorry for that tangent.
More on compressed time, and time in general.
We’re constantly trying to squeeze more of everything into less time. Usually work gets privileged over other things. It’s not always that we’re expected to spend a lot of time at work (though 9-5 jobs usually still want you to be in the office for those eight hours, they just want you working outside of them, too. And not charging for it), but that work is expected to consume a lot of our time. Which is to be expected, I suppose. But I wonder what we’re giving up for it. I get up at about 6am most days, usually skip breakfast or just drink one of those meal replacements, and end up eating at noon. Or I run out when I get hungry enough and grab something reasonably inexpensive that won’t make too much noise when I eat it at the back of the class. The first actual meal (with all the food groups in it and actual sitting-down-to-eat-ness) I have in the course of a day is dinner. I’m not complaining about this, I actually don’t think about it much, but it is what it is. To have three square meals a day would take more time and energy than I’m willing to give. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
For reasons of time compression, I kind of love the train. I’m on the train for about two hours a day. It’s when I read. My mobility is (ironically) limited, it’s not a social situation where I’m expected to engage with the people around me, so it’s the perfect time for me to engage with time-consuming, valuable things that I have trouble dedicating time to when the world keeps knocking on my door. Reception is spotty in places, so I don’t always get my text messages or emails until I’m at my car. And I don’t text and drive, because it pisses me off to no end when I see other people do it, so there’s another half hour or so of relative freedom.
On a related note, I also have the Freedom app. And I wonder if things like that are the way of the future. If we’re gradually realizing that having things more quickly doesn’t necessarily make us more effective or productive people, and we’re going to see more and more applications that are slow or provide impediments to connectivity by their very design.
Anyway, the point of this whole ramble is that I think we have to stop trying to do everything so fast. That if we spend more time and energy on things, we’ll be prouder of what we produce. I’m happy to wait for something worth waiting for.