This past week, something happened to me that I’m sure many of you have experienced before – my iPhone stopped receiving emails from my work account. I was still getting personal emails – thank God because I would hate to miss any LivingSocial emails or Southwest deal notifications – but for a total of 18 hours I was disconnected from my office. Knowing this was just a minor glitch that would most likely fix itself I was not concerned. My reaction to this situation, however, is what startled me. Rather than feeling relieved that my phone wouldn’t be blowing up every 10 minutes with a new email notification, I felt unsettled and slightly out of touch – like the rest of the world was happening with out me knowing about it. Now, that might sound a little dramatic but the truth is I felt very very disconnected.
My “disconnected” feeling made me wondering if I’ve become, like most of the world, over-connected. I must admit that I have become dependent on my iPhone for nearly everything I do in my everyday life. On a typical day I wake up, grab a cup of coffee, and check all my networks – Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, my calendar, and finally my work email. If an email needs my immediate attention I respond, otherwise I just quickly read through them and move on to the next – as bad of habit as I believe this to be, this morning routine does allow me to plan out my day as I get ready for work. Once out the door, I make my daily stop at a local coffee shop where I once again check up on any emails that have come my way in the last hour or so. By the time I get into the office I have already been connected for a couple of hours. While at work, my phone sits next to me. I’m often listening to a podcast or Pandora as I work through the day, responding to the occasional text messages or replying to a personal email here and there. By days end, I find myself checking my networks a couple more times before I’m off to bed.
There has been a recent backlash against the 24-hour connectivity that may of us with smartphones experience. This “always connected” attitude has blurred the lines between work-life and personal life. We are no longer just taking work home with us, we are taking it to places where it does not belong – to the gym, to the grocery store, to our kids sporting events, to Wash Park on Saturday afternoons for a pick up slosh-ball game. We are responding to emails that can wait till morning, we are setting up meetings that are not as important as the activities we are participating in at the moment, and we are answering phone calls that could easily be sent to voicemail. May of us, I’m sure, feel like there is just not enough time in the average workday to get everything done which leads us to stay over-connected. Since the recession we have all found ourselves busy but understaffed, trying to do more with less. This constant demand to preform well under this kind of pressure, along with the never-ending ways that people can access us anytime of the day or night, it’s hard for us to put down the smartphone and disconnect completely.
Though staying connected and working around the clock may seem like the right answer to an unsolvable problem, being over-connected can lead to more unnecessary stress. I’m not suggesting you need to be extreme – I don’t think you need to unplug or go connection free – but I think it’s important that you become aware of how connected you are and think about the amount of time you spend “being connected” every day. I think it’s important for us to understand how connected you feel you must be and how it is affection your life. There is such a thing as being over-connected but I believe it’s up to us to decide how much is too much.