When was the last time you were at home/on a holiday/with your kids/in bed/out with your friends/with relatives/on the train/at work/watching TV and you weren’t compelled to check your phone/tablet/laptop/desktop to check your emails or social media? Okay, so that list is long, but it demonstrates the fact that our work-life balance has become non-existent as our jobs move from the industrial sector to the industry of knowledge (Bradwell & Reeves 2008), removing our ability to escape our commitment to work, and tethering us to technology and social media no matter where we are, both physically and mentally. Even when we are in environments which prevent connection to Wi-Fi, we are psychologically conditioned to want to check our electronics for notifications; watching for the blink of a phone with a message, the notification of an email or tweet flashing across our screen (personal experience). This is why the ‘Stop Phubbing’ campaign I mentioned in my post ‘Cyberspace: the Safe Harbour’ has so much resonance with Internet users. Our connection to real life, to our family and friends, and our ability to disconnect and enjoy a balanced lifestyle, has been compromised by our tendency to be physically in one place, but mentally, strongly tethered to what’s happening in cyberspace. It’s come to the point where a woman in labour, in hospital, takes care of work her New York publicist needed to have done because, hey, she had ‘full strength on [her] phone- five bars.‘
My generation cannot depend on steady jobs anymore, the type that we could stay in until we thought that, maybe, it was time for something new. Careers which had logical steps, consistent dependable bonuses and promotions. Now we must depend on the euphemistic ‘workplace flexibility’, a phenomenon which began as a result of improving technologies which have freed us from the desk, but lead to former desk workers becoming ‘chained’ to their phones, unable to leave their work at the office and being informally available as a result of psychological conditioning that says ‘if you’re not available, then you’re unprofessional’ (Deuze 2006) .
Despite these negative aspects of the knowledge worker’s life, there are aspects which can make us feel more connected and aware in our professional lives. As it becomes more and more apparent to companies of many different shapes, sizes, locations and industries, that social networking is just not going to go away, and could actually be quite useful (Bradwell & Reeves, 2008). Social networking tools specifically tailored to professional environments are steadily replacing costly and ineffective communication relay structures (Bradwell & Reeves 2008). Professional, closed social networking tools such as Yammer and SocialCast are being used effectively by companies such as BP, 3M, Nokia and Philips to improve productivity and subvert traditional communication structures, resulting in new ideas and social cohesion.
So how do we reconcile these useful, positive functions of modern technology with the diminishing effects of being constantly tethered to tech and being unable to count on a consistent job? For now, I’ll just have to settle with the words of Zach Galifianakis in Road Trip: ‘Check yourself before you wreck yourself.’
Bradwell, P, & Reeves, R. 2008, ‘Economies’, Networked Citizens, pp. 25-31, accessed 20/08/13, Demos.
Deuze, M. 2006, ‘Liquid Life, Convergence Culture, and Media Work’, accessed 20/08/13, Moodle Portal.