Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Death of a Status Symbol

Back in the day, the guy with the cell phone was cool. Having a car phone was super-cool. In fact I remember a guy I used to work with that had a phone with him constantly and the antenna conspicuously mounted on his car. We later found out that both were phony, but it points out the status that having a mobile phone used to provide. Then came laptops and blackberries. I guess the notion was that you must be important if you need to be "in the loop" at all times.

Now that information tech has become all-pervasive, things look a little different. I saw a man at the grocery store the other day with a Blue Tooth in his ear, take a call while he was checking out. The feeling that came across me wasn't so much admiration as pity. The poor guy can't have a moment to himself in the grocery store. Information technology was supposed to be liberating. You could work from anywhere. Even the beach! Well, as it turned out, in many cases that just means your break isn't really a break and your day off isn't really a day off. We aren't getting extra time at the beach, we're just bringing our work with us when we go.

Of course, this loss of "me time" is self inflicted. You certainly can use technology to your advantage. But when you can no longer enjoy the sanctity of your own car, whose advantage are your really serving?

I think the new status symbol is the guy or gal who walks into the room without the cell phone, or the blackberry; someone who plugs in when and if it suits them, rather than being at someone else's beck and call 24/7. If you want to use technology to improve your quality of life, make it your servant, not your master.

No comments: