16 April 2008

Remember April 17, 2007? The Day the Berry Went Black

April 17, 2007, one year ago today, was the day service was down and all our bosses were frantic because their wireless hand-held devices didn't work. I wrote this after observing their reactions on my way to work and at work and from speaking to others about this new past-time.

The 24/7 Executive: Wireless Hand-held Devices are the new Corporate Addiction

A young lawyer puts his wireless hand-held device under his pillow so he won’t miss that all-important call or e-mail. He doesn’t want to miss the opportunity if someone should want to get in touch with him. Initially he is somewhat surprised when he is awakened in the wee hours of the morning with incoming messages, but now he considers it normal to receive e-mails at any time of the day or night.

A corporate executive is concerned that while on a cruise in a remote part of the world he will only be able to check his messages when he goes ashore. His spouse endures patiently until the next port of call.

It is such a noticeable phenomenon that the name Crackberry has been dubbed for those that are showing signs of addiction. Some disturbing symptoms of this wireless addiction are feelings of anxiety when you are unable to go online or are out of service range, and neglecting your real relationships for your wireless ones.

Colleagues can unknowingly become enablers as they feed this compulsion to check messages by taking advantage of their online availability. Employers may even fuel the addiction by their expectations of 24/7 accessibility. Are we addicted to this new technology? Is the ability to conduct business 24/7 the new high?

No Age Limit

Some older executives who have up to this point refused new technology, when they have been introduced to the wireless hand-held device have taken to it with glee and can’t seem to put it down. Younger executives as well have felt the lure of the wireless and the 24/7 high, while others have stood firm and have turned them off or leave them at home when they are on their own time.

The laptop started the excitement with the convenience of being able to bring your computer on the road. With the wireless we can now carry our computer in our pocket. We have gone from the fascination of the big screen to the addiction of the small screen and executives have taken to it with a passion.

The Day the Berry went Black

April 17, 2007 will be remembered as the day when service was interrupted for hours, well into the next day, for millions of users of the wireless hand-held device in North America. Offices were buzzing about what could have happened. “Where were you when...?” or “How did you cope?” were the kinds of questions executives were asking each other. People held their collective breaths wondering when service might be restored and they could get back to thumbing their way through their messages.

Getting the Cold Thumb

If you have ever waited for the elevator or for public transit with one of these users you will have gotten the cold thumb. They do not acknowledge the people around them. Their focus is entirely on the wireless as they continue to talk with their thumbs. Physiotherapists are seeing more repetitive strain injuries on hands and thumbs from this overuse, with the increase in tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Some users have had to withdraw and go cold turkey because of the damage.

Lighten up!

Some websites have taken a light-hearted look at this pastime and are making suggestions for other uses for the wireless device, such as using the wireless as a night light to go to places it has never gone before – directing blurry eyed executives to the bathroom. Paparazzi type sightings of Crackberry users have become the new frenzy and are posted on websites. Who will they spot using their wireless?

People are also coming up with new words to express their online addiction such as blirting which is the equivalent of wireless flirting and talking with your thumbs to explain the wireless chit chat. Don’t Berry and Drive, however, may be the new catch phrase to describe the emerging socially unacceptable behaviour of driving while on your wireless. The dangers of focussing on your wireless while driving are becoming a real concern, and rightly so. Concentrating on anything other than your driving is a danger to yourself and to others.

This may well be the generation of the 24/7 workforce. Are we up for the challenge or do we need to step back and re-evaluate? The song Cats in the Cradle may have a timely message for today’s business workers. Business can be exciting and the ability to do it 24/7 is appealing to those with a business appetite. You can enjoy the use of your wireless and take business to where it has never been before, but don’t neglect your real relationships, and do take the time to enjoy life. It is the real thing.

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