Recently, I’ve been thinking about what makes me happy, and what does not.
Something that makes me unhappy is connectivity.
This is surprising. I live in Wellington. Live here long enough and you won’t be able to go about your daily business without bumping into someone you know. I like that this happens, but the constant barrage of text messages, IRC, Instant messaging, skype, emails, facebook, and who knows what else* has led me to spending evenings and weekends ignoring text messages and leaving everything else turned off.
I think a large chunk of what drives this is the feeling of anxiety that instant text messaging inherently creates. Pre-cellphones, it was a given that if you rang someone, it was entirely possible that the person you wanted to talk to may not be there, and that you would simply have to call back later. If you email someone, it’s a given the recipient may not get around to reading that email for a day or two, and that it may take even longer for them to sort out their life and thoughts out in order to generate a germane reply. Furthermore, email allows a length of reply that can be well thought out and properly phrased to avoid giving offence or the wrong impression.
At the other end of the scale, mobile messaging has forced us into the opposite paradigm. Instant responses are expected, and forced into a length that is practically guaranteed at some point to be misunderstood. Having replied, the likelihood is high that I’ll have completely lost the mental stack of what I was previously working on. Phones are the perfect method to destroy my focus.
So, here’s my rules for communication to keep me sane. Text messaging is to be limited to organisational duties only. If you send me a text message, and it’s general conversation, I’m not going to reply. “Coffee at 3pm?” is fine – “How are you?” will be deleted. Furthermore, IM conversations of any personal significance whatsoever will be limited to people** to which I don’t have to explain myself to.
* Thankfully, I never signed up for twitter, and now I never will.
** If you haven’t known me for at least ten years, you probably aren’t on this list.