From the editor's desk
Four days of the work week, I’m glued to my phone and computer, tending to various contracts as a freelance writer, editor and communications professional. Not Wednesdays, though. On Wednesdays I honour my past life as a musician by sitting in a five-by-six room teaching kids how to play the piano. I’ve done it for years, but somehow this year has been harder than all the rest.
Why? Not because the hours are long and the breaks are few. Not because of all the backtalk, repetition and feeble excuses from “suuuuuuuper busy” children who have failed, yet again, to practice. Not because 90 per cent of these little buggers have mastered the art of ‘silent but deadly’ flatulence and somehow think I don’t notice.
It’s because I’m officially and unapologetically addicted to my phone and every Wednesday is like a cold-turkey detox session for my tech-hungry brain. I’m not a smoker, but I imagine it’s like being stuck aboard an intercontinental flight on an involuntary 12-hour nicotine drought. My teaching schedule is perhaps slightly better in that it’s only nine hours and I’m actually able to look at my phone if I want to, I’m just a terrible person if I do.
From the moment I set foot inside my studio to the moment I leave, there’s a little voice that whispers in my ear: “Check your email. I bet you have one. Maybe you have three. I bet they’re urgent.”
I know darn well that Little Timmy and his C Major scale deserve my full attention, and his parents have paid good money for it, but like a dull itch the voice repeats. And then it shifts its focus to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and so-on. When I finally do get a moment to check in on things, I’m sure it looks as though someone has let a dog loose on a bone.
Often, as I’m going about my daily business, I’ll see other people in the act of playing catch-up as well. Everyone has their favourite spot to do it in. Some people can be found speed-scrolling as they ride the SkyTrain, others do it in the middle of the escalator at the mall. A few even do it while their (in)significant other is trying to chat them up over coffee. The truly ashamed, like me, make their best attempts to do it in private.
I guarantee you that most of the people sitting in bathroom stalls at this very second haven’t gone there to deposit more than a few puffs of air. Toilets, above and beyond their actual purpose, have become a private seat where we can take some much-needed ‘technology time’ without being brought back to reality anytime soon.
Just try not to think about that the next time someone hands you their Samsung Galaxy to show you a photo of their new baby niece…
Computer dependency – and, by extension, cell phone and social media dependency – are a very real thing. I would imagine that communications, social media and marketing professionals are more susceptible than just about anyone else, given that they are expected to be responding to emails, collaborating on press documents, writing promotional copy and stoking the Facebook fire at all hours of the day and night.
You may notice that people in this line of work are some of the quietest when it comes to updating their personal pages, simply because they’ve been creating content all day at the office – the last thing they want to do is create more once they get home. But I guarantee you they’re still scrubbing through their news feeds for the latest and greatest content from others. The problem with that is that soon, the brain starts to rewire itself so that constant checking becomes the norm.
In reality, this is far from normal for the average person, and eventually it starts to affect your social life; you start to see people and things as posts – or worse, a delaying factor in your ability to read and react to the posts of others. This is what I’ve been noticing on Wednesdays, as this nasty habit from one job has begun to affect another job – and, above all, my life.
Instead of enjoying what’s happening right in front of me, I’m somehow more concerned with what I might be missing on a miniature screen in my pocket.
So, what’s a guy to do? Well, here are some things I’ve been trying over the past couple weeks. I’m not sure if they’ll become long-term solutions, but I’ve decided to share them, just in case that’s ever you in the next stall over during one of our generation’s inevitable bouts of technological constipation.
1. Set your phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode and enjoy a ringer-free day.
2. Call a cell phone truce in social situations. Put it in the centre of the table, leave it in the glovebox of your car, shut it off; whatever it takes, but don’t you dare look!
3. Take advantage of the ‘Schedule Post’ feature, a hidden secret of digital content strategists everywhere, but highly under-utilized for personal pages.
4. By all means take your photos now, but save the posting and captioning for later. The #latergram hashtag is your friend! It’s also perfectly okay to pretend you ate that lasagna or cuddled that puppy the day after it actually happened. (Though, if you ate a puppy and cuddled a lasagna, you probably shouldn’t be putting that on the Internet…)
5. Reply to emails in batches. Use stars, flags and tags to your advantage.
6. Avoid anything that involves other people having to do a thing. That includes classic lines such as: “Wait! Don’t eat it yet!” or “Can you take a photo of me doing ___?” Chances are, you’re encroaching on someone else’s experience, if not your own.
7. Have some tips you’d like to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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