22 June 2009

It's like crack, only with less death

My friends like to make fun of how addicted I am to my BlackBerry. Actually, it's more people with whom I have a casual acquaintance. People who know me well know that I'm just as capable of not looking at it when it beeps or blinks. Those who barely know me haven't yet learned that they just aren't interesting enough to hold my attention.

That's why I liked this post from writer John Scalzi.

First: If you are the sort of person who believes that all your e-mails/texts must be responded to instantaneously or sooner, you may be a self-absorbed twit. Please entertain the idea that your responder may have a life of his or her own, with priorities which may not conform to yours.

The entire entry is pretty amusing. And poignant.

I get involved in e-mail/text conversations when they come up, if I judge that they are more important than what I am doing. Sometimes I'm wrong about what's "more important", but I never intend to be disrespectful.

The other night, I talked to a friend via IM on my BlackBerry while watching a movie with my mother and boyfriend. It wasn't because it was a boring movie, or because I disrespected either of them; it's because the topic was one that I felt needed to be sorted out before I could comfortably move on. Otherwise, the verbal bomb would have been dropped and I likely would have been more distracted with it hanging over my head. Having the IM conversation was unobtrusive to the other people and allowed me to gather more information before deciding that I was ready to get back to the movie. No one else was worse for the wear.

The argument I love from Luddites is, "What would you have done 10 years ago? What if you didn't have a BlackBerry/text messaging/the internet?" These are false, ridiculous arguments.

Ten years ago, my friend would have had to call me to talk directly. I would have had to make a decision to leave the room altogether to have the conversation. That's probably much more rude (or more stressful to cope with) than answering a text. Thirty years ago, the conversation would have waited until we were in the same town, since it would have been an expensive long distance call at the time. Eighty years ago, even a local call may have been a little ridiculous to achieve, since the subject was something that's still pending. And 150 years ago, he and I wouldn't have been friends. Gender barriers aside, I likely wouldn't have even made it to this province to live, let alone have become friends with someone who lived in another town where a half-day buggy ride would have been required for simple socializing.

So, stuff your "what would you do without texting?" argument. It's the only way I've communicated with some friends in the past few days because the surgery makes it hurt to talk.

While there may be problems with the instant and multiple communication inundation, I'd say it has as much to do with self-restraint as anything else. And if you don't let yourself (or your kids) socialize in any other way, then that's what sets you up for problems. Not the need to respond; your perceived need to respond.