So, I was on vacation a few weeks ago, and I made my mind up that I would spend an entire week independent of technology. I genuinely thought I could decrease my stress levels and be more relaxed if I left the cell phone behind, ignored email and most importantly, stayed off the World Wide Web. That would mean no Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn updates, no TWC radar, no sports scores and no quick texts to my wife to let her know I was going to spend an extra hour fishing before coming home to barbecue dinner.
Why am I telling you all this? I'm telling you because I failed, miserably. I spend day after day telling myself that someday I'm going to retire and never look at a computer again — all while I'm updating my blog and reading the latest MySpace updates, and when I finally get the chance, I'm too afraid of losing my technology to walk away from it. I think I'm a "technophobophile."
For instance, on the first day of my vacation we were heading up north to spend a couple of days at a quiet lake in the woods, out of cell range, no television, no landline. As I walked out the door, I stopped and stared at my Droid X lying on the counter, beckoning to me. Girding my loins, I turned my back on it and willed myself to walk out the door without it. Unfortunately, before I made it out of the driveway, I realized I'd forgotten my coffee thermos and had to go back in to get it. This time, the pull was too strong, and I grabbed my phone, shoved it in my back pocket and grumbled invectives at my own weakness.
When we made our first rest stop, before I could catch myself, I automatically pulled my phone out and checked it. I had emails on three different accounts, a series of Facebook wall updates and a flock of Twitters. My hand was poised to clear all the messages, and then, suddenly, I was reading and replying to work email. Not even two hours had gone by, and I couldn't stay away. After that, it was Katy-bar-the-door.
For the next two hours, my smart phone GPS was guiding us to our destination. I looked up fishing reports for the North Country and checked the weather. I even read some more work email and researched an issue we were having with a problem customer. I surrendered, capitulated and went belly-up in my week-long battle against technology.
So what happened? Do I lack willpower? Did an emergency pop up that required me to fall back on instant communication to save a life? Is there something more insidious at work here? I think what my little anecdote illustrates is that whether we like it or not, for good or bad, the technology of information accessibility enabled by computers, laptops smart phones and pads not only simplifies our lives, but has come to permeate our existence to the point that vendors, bloggers, advertisers and anyone else who is providing information and data on the Internet is now a 24/7/365 companion. Even something as pastoral and non-technical as a weekend fishing trip can no longer separate the customer from the vendor.
DAVE MARTINA [david.martina@NEPS.com] is the vice president of systems integration for NEPS, LLC of Salem, New Hampshire, a firm that provides solutions for the automation of document-intensive business processes.