ThoughtPiece: the BlackBerry and family life

10 Comments

I generally maintain that technology itself is neutral; it can liberate or enslave depending on the individual. Workaholics and their neglect of family existed long before the BlackBerry device. Indeed, the root causes of such behavior are far deeper and more profound than any technology.

Perhaps the best summation is provided by another law professor, Glenn Reynolds: “Like all technology, it depends on how you use it. . . .”

I am curious as to what you Thoughtful Readers out there think: what impact has the BlackBerry and other connected technologies had on your personal life and relationships?

  • L. M. Lloyd

    I agree with what you are saying, but I would like to add another perspective. Your article, and every other article I have seen on this subject, focuses entirely on how a work BB effects the time you aren’t in the office. There is another whole story, that is completely ignored, and that is how a personal BB effects time at work.

    My Fiancee, and several of my friends have BBs, or other personal messaging devices, not provided by their work. Those devices give us the ability to converse all day long, in a way that would not be otherwise possible in today’s workplace where email, IM, web usage, and even phone logs are routinely reviewed by an employer.

    I’m not talking about anything untoward or improper, I am just talking about normal conversation here. For example, my fiancee and I will often just chit-chat while she is waiting for a meeting to start, or when she has some downtime between tasks. If she did not have her BB, it just wouldn’t happen. Why, because there is no way she would feel comfortable sitting talking on the phone, or even in company monitored email, about private issues that don’t concern work. I know in our relationship, it has brought us a lot closer, because we both do deadline-based work, that often requires long hours away from home. Before the advent of wireless messaging, she often had to do things like spending her day off hanging out with me at the studio, just so we could spend a few moments talking when I had some free time, otherwise we might go a week barely seeing each other. Now, we feel like we are constantly together, because we converse throughout the day, even if we only actually see each other for a few hours a day.

    Or my friend who likes to party a lot. He isn’t going to talk about the details of his trip to Las Vegas, or some girl he met on the weekend, over his work email, or on the phone in the office. Yet that is very much a part of his life that he wants to share with his friends privately. Having his own messaging device apart from the corporate infrastructure allows him to maintain the privacy of his communication with his friends, and thus affords him the opportunity to stay in touch while at work.

    In my opinion what really makes these devices so great for actually improving your work/life balance, is their asymmetric nature. Trying to IM, or talk on the phone at work is troublesome, intrusive, and often makes it impossible to either concentrate on what you are doing, or the conversation. A mobile email device, on the other hand, allows you to read or send a message to or from your friends and loved ones as it is convenient. Waiting for someone to show up for a meeting? Take the opportunity to let your wife know you love her! Walking from the warehouse back to your office? Make some plans to get together with friends for some drinks after work. Waiting for a file to finish transferring so you can review it? Help your kid with some homework.

    I don’t mean to sound like a commercial, but every story I see is always focusing on how these devices are just about letting work into your personal life, and I never see any mention of how they let your personal life into work. That tends to make me think that the issue isn’t the BlackBerry, but rather our societies priorities as regards work.

  • L. M. Lloyd

    I agree with what you are saying, but I would like to add another perspective. Your article, and every other article I have seen on this subject, focuses entirely on how a work BB effects the time you aren’t in the office. There is another whole story, that is completely ignored, and that is how a personal BB effects time at work.

    My Fiancee, and several of my friends have BBs, or other personal messaging devices, not provided by their work. Those devices give us the ability to converse all day long, in a way that would not be otherwise possible in today’s workplace where email, IM, web usage, and even phone logs are routinely reviewed by an employer.

    I’m not talking about anything untoward or improper, I am just talking about normal conversation here. For example, my fiancee and I will often just chit-chat while she is waiting for a meeting to start, or when she has some downtime between tasks. If she did not have her BB, it just wouldn’t happen. Why, because there is no way she would feel comfortable sitting talking on the phone, or even in company monitored email, about private issues that don’t concern work. I know in our relationship, it has brought us a lot closer, because we both do deadline-based work, that often requires long hours away from home. Before the advent of wireless messaging, she often had to do things like spending her day off hanging out with me at the studio, just so we could spend a few moments talking when I had some free time, otherwise we might go a week barely seeing each other. Now, we feel like we are constantly together, because we converse throughout the day, even if we only actually see each other for a few hours a day.

    Or my friend who likes to party a lot. He isn’t going to talk about the details of his trip to Las Vegas, or some girl he met on the weekend, over his work email, or on the phone in the office. Yet that is very much a part of his life that he wants to share with his friends privately. Having his own messaging device apart from the corporate infrastructure allows him to maintain the privacy of his communication with his friends, and thus affords him the opportunity to stay in touch while at work.

    In my opinion what really makes these devices so great for actually improving your work/life balance, is their asymmetric nature. Trying to IM, or talk on the phone at work is troublesome, intrusive, and often makes it impossible to either concentrate on what you are doing, or the conversation. A mobile email device, on the other hand, allows you to read or send a message to or from your friends and loved ones as it is convenient. Waiting for someone to show up for a meeting? Take the opportunity to let your wife know you love her! Walking from the warehouse back to your office? Make some plans to get together with friends for some drinks after work. Waiting for a file to finish transferring so you can review it? Help your kid with some homework.

    I don’t mean to sound like a commercial, but every story I see is always focusing on how these devices are just about letting work into your personal life, and I never see any mention of how they let your personal life into work. That tends to make me think that the issue isn’t the BlackBerry, but rather our societies priorities as regards work.

  • Thought

    Lloyd: what a fantastic observation!

    Thanks for a totally different perspective on this issue, and one that is both so true and so under-reported in the press.

    I wish you would submit your story to ABC News, which is fishing around for more stories on how BB addiction ruined someone’s life, or even to RIM, which is looking for positive stories on BB use.

  • Thought

    Lloyd: what a fantastic observation!

    Thanks for a totally different perspective on this issue, and one that is both so true and so under-reported in the press.

    I wish you would submit your story to ABC News, which is fishing around for more stories on how BB addiction ruined someone’s life, or even to RIM, which is looking for positive stories on BB use.

  • L. M. Lloyd

    I tried to submit basically the same info to ABC News, but got an error on multiple attempts to submit, and it wouldn’t let me.

    As far as RIM goes, I seriously doubt that they (given the very corporate security heavy slant of their marketing) really want to call employers attention to the fact that anyone who has a personal BlackBerry can circumvent all that corporate employee monitoring that is so popular among many of their customers.

  • L. M. Lloyd

    I tried to submit basically the same info to ABC News, but got an error on multiple attempts to submit, and it wouldn’t let me.

    As far as RIM goes, I seriously doubt that they (given the very corporate security heavy slant of their marketing) really want to call employers attention to the fact that anyone who has a personal BlackBerry can circumvent all that corporate employee monitoring that is so popular among many of their customers.

  • Thought

    Lloyd: it’s great that you tried to submit to ABC News.

    As for RIM, I do think they would be interested in such a story. They have a site set up for this:
    http://www.blackberry.com/ask

    I know what you are saying about RIM wanting to protect their enterprise market base, but I do think there is room for stories like yours. Indeed, I think it would be a stroke of genius for RIM to run a very clever ad campaign bringing out the side of BB that you allude to; it could be an exact counterpoint to all of these negative stories.

    At any rate, again, thanks for a fresh perspective.

  • Thought

    Lloyd: it’s great that you tried to submit to ABC News.

    As for RIM, I do think they would be interested in such a story. They have a site set up for this:
    http://www.blackberry.com/ask

    I know what you are saying about RIM wanting to protect their enterprise market base, but I do think there is room for stories like yours. Indeed, I think it would be a stroke of genius for RIM to run a very clever ad campaign bringing out the side of BB that you allude to; it could be an exact counterpoint to all of these negative stories.

    At any rate, again, thanks for a fresh perspective.

  • C. Waters

    Happy New Year Everyone,

    We also are the owners/operators of our own small business. Because we have a BlackBerry, we don’t have to be near our computers to find out if we are receiving an important business or personal e-mail. Therefore, it actually allows us more freedom than we ever had with respect as to how we manage our business. And of course, we have the option whether or not we wish to reply to any of these business/personal e-mails.

    Does RIM have a slogan? It may seem obvious but how about “ANY TIME, ANY PLACE.”

  • C. Waters

    Happy New Year Everyone,

    We also are the owners/operators of our own small business. Because we have a BlackBerry, we don’t have to be near our computers to find out if we are receiving an important business or personal e-mail. Therefore, it actually allows us more freedom than we ever had with respect as to how we manage our business. And of course, we have the option whether or not we wish to reply to any of these business/personal e-mails.

    Does RIM have a slogan? It may seem obvious but how about “ANY TIME, ANY PLACE.”