I was just reading this article about how "Cell Phones Blur Boundaries Between Work and Home", and I think it's true.
It seems like many many years ago, but when I started my first business, EDK Enterprises, in 1996, I also got my first cell phone. I loved it when it rang. It was almost like a toy. I was so in touch – so available. My business was important. I was important. But then I was trying to sell myself. I needed to be available because if I wasn't, then maybe someone else would be.
But then to put it into perspective, in 1996 I was 28 years old, and still trying to play "grown up". My biggest fear was everyone pointing at me and saying "Fraud". I didn't know what the hell I was doing, but riding the train, and getting a call allowed me to pretend that I knew what I was doing – and show everyone on the train that I was important.
Eventually, for reasons having nothing to do with my cell phone, I closed my business & started working for a company. I learned a lot about customer service and being an employee working for myself. Although I was an employee, I still treated the relationship like a contract position. Also, it was the height of the dot-com era & technology was everywhere. I was given a text pager, laptop computer & I still had my cell phone. I traveled a lot. The text pager allowed me to see how my stocks were doing, the laptop allowed me to check email while I wasn't in the office. I checked it at home. I checked my work voice mail too – I was still important. My cell phone allowed me to keep in touch with my family and friends as I was traveling. I was one of those people who turned all of my technology back on when the plane landed.
I remember that I used to go on what I used to call "the white-man rant" and basically it was an outburst at all of the self-important traveling white men (because that's the overwhelmimg majority of people who travelled at that time) that I had to fight in order to get off the plane, get my luggage, get a taxi, whatever. They were more aggressive than I was, and they were more self-important than me too – and I resented them.
Right around the same time that I moved from Chicago to Texas to be with Gary, I also got laid off of that job, and the World Trade Center was attacked. I also realized that I wasn't that important anymore. No one was going to die if I didn't check my email on the weekends. No one would get fired if I let my cell phone battery die. No sale would get lost because I only worked a 40 hour work week.
I was much happier – I was less stressed. Because I had unplugged myself from my technology, I felt like I was on a vacation! However, because I used my cell phone so infrequently, the battery often died for days on end, or I wouldn't know that I had a voicemail message for a week! I would often receive the angry message from Gary "What's the point in having a cell phone if you're not going to answer it?!?"
I saw people driving erratically while talking on their cell phones – meanwhile the whole time thinking to myself "I just don't need to be that in touch. I'm not that important." I almost felt like the uni-bomber – anti-technology. Funny because I worked in the computer field for over 15 years.
Then, one company gave me a blackberry. They were so freakin' jazzed about them. I wasn't. "I don't need to be that in touch. I'm a Business Analyst. Your company is not going to flounder because I wrote a requirement wrong!"
My manager actually had the nerve to say that he was disappointed that I wasn't checking my blackberry email after-hours. That relationship only lasted 5 months.
Although cell phones and technology make our lives easier, they are also very intrusive. I can't count the number of times that Gary & I have been at a restaurant & someone in the restaurant has gotten a call, they get up from their table to have the conversation near us! Cell phones are rude. The only time they're not is when they are off – otherwise they are interrupting.
By answering your cell phone when you are with another person, you are telling the person you're with that they are not important – and that the call is more important than they are.
So, I'm back to having my own business. And my cell phone is (somewhat) exciting again. However, there's still a limit. Although I need to be accessible to my clients, I don't foresee any of them having a wellness emergency. And God help me if I answer my cell phone when I'm with any of them! That's what voice mail is for.
Am I important? Yes. Am I self-important? No. I am just one person on this vast amazing planet who wants to leave the world in a better place than whence I received it.