Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Listening to the Silence

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about the backlash against emails, instant messaging and mobile phones.

Intel, for example, is experimenting with a "no email" Friday for its engineers, where no one is allowed to email anyone else in the company.  Face-to-face meetings, or even an old-fashioned phone call, has been reinstituted as the communication vehicle of choice at this leading technology company.

The experiment has gone so well that Intel is considering making emails obsolete for the entire company on Friday.

Over the weekend the New York Times carried an article about how more families are looking for ways to disconnect the internet, at least for a short while.  Here's an excerpt from the piece entitled "The Joy of Quiet":

In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight. 


Roger Cohen writing in this morning's New York Times also comments on the increasing demands that workers be allowed to disengage from instant communications, even for a short while.  Here's an excerpt from his editorial:

Let’s hear it for Volkswagen at the start of 2012. The German automaker has responded to demands from its works council by agreeing to stop the e-mail server to its BlackBerry-using employees a half-hour after their shift ends, only restoring it 30 minutes before work begins the next day. 

...The Volkswagen decision reflects growing evidence of stress-related burnout tied to employees’ inability to separate their working and private lives now that developed societies live in a 24/7 paroxysm of connection. 


I can personally attest to how pleasant life can be without instant messaging.

Last week my family and I traveled to Montreal for a few days of vacation.

We had a great time - none of us had ever been to the city, and despite the cold we had the chance to explore many of the museums, restaurants and other attractions that Montreal offers.

One of the reasons the trip was was so pleasant was the fact that none of us could use our iPhones or iPads to connect with friends and family back home.

It was actually a little humorous at first.  We arrived at our hotel, and all four of pulled out our Apple products to try to connect to the internet.

However, since we were in Canada, and our American service contracts did not allow for international service, no one was able to connect, despite our almost desperate attempts.

So what happened?  We reconnected with each other.  As we walked through the  Montreal, we found ourselves looking up, not down at our iPhone.  Forgotten arts like conversations were rediscovered, and we were reminded about how special family times can be.

And when we returned home - and the iPhones were up and running - we also discovered that we really hadn't missed a thing..

Happy New Year!