Miller Time!

James Miller

Technology is wonderful and amazing. It offers instant access to literally everyone you know via text messaging, Messenger, email and cell phones.

I dropped owning a landline years ago. The only time I ever used it was when I’d lose my cellphone in the house.

Easy access to people is great but, for the business world, it means we’re working harder than we ever have before.

Clients, coworkers, your boss and the general public know they can get hold of you whenever they want. They can find you.

Anxiety levels rise when it takes longer than 10 minutes for someone to reply.

Without realizing it, we extend our work day by 30 minutes because we will take calls and reply to texts when we’re out for lunch, on break or at home in the evening watching television.

If you fall into my age demographic or older, you well remember the pre-call display days of not answering your landline on the weekend for fear of being called into work. The boss just figured you were out for the afternoon and gave up.

I never really thought much about it until I had a casual conversation a few years ago with my nephew.

He owns a small business with about nine employees and a large client list. When he took his family south on a spring vacation, the phone and laptop also went.

You can’t get away from it all by staying connected online, I thought.

“My clients expect to get hold of me,” he said.

If he doesn’t answer, clients might go with a competitor. If there was a shop problem in his absence, staff needed help.

Technology, in a lot of ways, has made us lazy. Before the millenium, we understood you had to phone someone before 4:30 in the afternoon. If it was Friday, move that up a half-hour. It would take at least a week to correspond with someone by Crown mail. We just accepted it without thinking.

Back then, if you had a close relationship with the individual, you might call them at home on the weekend, but it usually came with an apology. More often, you had to wait until Monday morning to reach someone.

As a young reporter, I loved the challenge. Of my own contacts, I knew where they hung out after civic meetings. If Person ‘A’ wasn’t available, I knew ‘B’ or ‘C’ would be capable of providing the information.

It all changed with the fax machine — technology’s answer to the “Pong” video game. Next came the car phone with airtime packages at $1 a minute. Then texting, where you had to press a numerical button one to three times to write a message.

It grew to become the three-headed monster it is today.

Some businesspeople will disagree. When clients can literally get hold of you from anywhere in the world, it means their bottom line improves. And that’s good.

But at what expense?

Family, relaxation, joint pain, your own mental health?

We’re slaves to our electronics and... sorry, I’m cutting this column short, I just got a call.

James Miller is a journalist with The Penticton Herald.

Email: james.miller@ok.bc.ca