The Downside Of Technology: Being On Call 24/7—Guest Post by The Blonde Bombshell (with pic!)

Blonde Bombshell at the beach

Let me first say that I am a modest person with a modest existence. I have a job, which is nothing special, but I do it well. I have a husband and children (now grown, but still of interest to me) and a few ordinary hobbies.

I’ve made great efforts to keep my work and home life separate. I go to the office when others relish “working from home.” I like to go to the office because it is a physical space designed for work. I like my work to be conducted within defined hours. I like to be able to leave work (and with my unassuming job, this is still mostly possible) and hypothetically not be bothered with it until I return.

One reason for my insistence on keeping the office space separate from home is that my experience working for pay at home was dismal. The work was part-time, but I invariably put in more than my share of hours. Tremendous guilt would descend if time were spent in the kitchen wiping down counters or preparing lunch. The worst part was there was no change of venue to clearly indicate when it was time to move from work mode to leisure. It was always work mode, as files and other reminders of work were piled around the house.

There is increasing pressure for people to merge their private and public identities, and I am mystified why this would be a good idea for the Average Joe or Jane. For those people whose work life is not tied to the clock—some CEOs and public figures, and possibly some academics and bloggers, it makes sense. Personally, I don’t want to check work email before going to bed or first thing in the morning. In fact, my work email is just that. It is separate, and not filtered through my private account, and I generally don’t check work email on weekends.

Social media applications are compelling users to merge their public and private identities, and I don’t think this is a good thing. This last week Skype announced that one can now log in with Facebook. Well, I don’t want to log in with Facebook.

Facebook itself is the nexus of the public/private problem. I was a late adopter, and most of by FB friends are high school classmates, many whom I have not clamped eyes on for more than a quarter-century. I am grateful to FB for kindling these connections, but then when I am asked to connect with someone that I know professionally, the button goes unclicked. And it is not because that I don’t like or respect this person, it is that I just don’t want her to be mixed into my bucket of friends. FB has since made an effort to let users divide friends, but I am not confident that this will always be the case. FB is continually making tweaks that upset the masses. Because of the quasi-public nature of FB, I also hide my innately shallow and frivolous nature by not liking new nail polish colors or novel recipes using snack foods. This is certainly not information I would like shared with my boss (or the head of HR).

As for Skype, my user name is on the cute side. Just the other day a colleague overseas asked me about Skype on my work computer, and I said that I had it once, but IT scrubbed it as a security risk, but I could ask for it to be reinstalled (admin password needed). If I ever get Skype at the office, I will have to reveal what I regard to be my personal nickname. Then this opens up the possibility that I can be Skyped by this person at any time to hash over a new idea.

My cellphone, which I pay for as a private person, is used for work from time to time. It is not enough to quibble about, but enough to be noted, as my cellphone is a means of production not owned by management.

Work email is a problem. While I have been with my current employer for a substantial period of time, I regard my work identity as temporary and open to change. My login email with LinkedIn is my work email, mostly because I was using LinkedIn for work. However, trouble could ensure if I ever thought about looking for a new job using LinkedIn as a resource.

When I’m at the office, and working, and using internet applications, I want this to be completely separate from when I am browsing at home. It isn’t Amazon’s fault that it makes book suggestions based on the books that I purchase for my boss.

With the mixing and mingling of my working identity with my private self, I feel I’m losing is that little space between the “office me” and the “home me.” Technology is wonderful, and I can barely remember the dark days before there was a computer on every lap. But I don’t want technology to force me into working more hours than I’m legally obligated to—no matter how well it is cloaked as a convenience.

Comments

The Downside Of Technology: Being On Call 24/7—Guest Post by The Blonde Bombshell (with pic!) — 10 Comments

  1. I’m a Software Engineer and have been working with or developing technology for almost eight years now. I fully share your sentiments. It is especially difficult in my industry where you are expected to be “current” with technology, which is an impossible task, given the cost, frequency, and quantity of new toys developed. It feels as though I’m expected to be constantly using new devices and software when I’m not at work, even if I have no interest.

    Most of my coworkers spend incredible amounts of money on new devices and software just to keep up with it. I find myself lagging behind with my “dumb” two-year old cell phone and no tablet computer. However, as a result, I have more time for reading, family, friends, hobbies, and reflection. My company is making it more difficult to have any of these blessings; they are beginning to expect an almost on-call status for every employee as if we were providing an urgent, life-saving service during emergencies instead of software developed on a long-term release schedule. It gets old.

  2. Speaking of trying to separate work and leisure, try livestock farming, especially dairy cattle.

  3. Thank you for this clear, incisive explanation of my position.

    Ditto.

    minor nit: ?clumsy construction? / ?editing error -”… I feel I’m losing is that little space …”

  4. For some reason, tech people seem to have the least respect for the work / home divide. It seems to be a symtom of either in inflated sense of importance from the employees — I am the only one who knows what they are doing, and must be ready to put out a fire — or bad managment — Bill is the only one who knows how to do / fix X so we need to get ahold of Bill.

  5. There’s ample evidence of exactly the oppossite–NOT much pressure to merge public & private identities…though some might have that impression (e.g. those whose friends become addicted to checking e-mail, etc. all the time). Many/most just create different ones, there’s a recent commercial to that effect with a guy finding out his supermodel girlfriend & neighbors have several & he doesn’t. SO this merging of identities is actually, for a sizeable proportion of the population, actually moving in the opposite direction–mulitple “cover” identities to help protect one’s privacy.

    Of course, thre’s still many people that refuse to use Facebook…or only do so under completely false pretenses.

    The real issue is how stupid people are posting so much private info it comes back to haunt them; racy/drunken pictures nixing job offers, etc. For reasons that are difficult to comprehend, many people think nothing of posting personal info online they’d never willingly reveal to bystanders in a conversation with a friend while standing in line at the grocery.

    WHAT few people notice is just how much personal insight can be extrated from one’s personal info–and it takes a lot less than most people think, sometimes surprisingly little, to uncover some very personal info & develop a very intimate profile, for example:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/16/how-target-figured-out-a-teen-girl-was-pregnant-before-her-father-did/

    So, when you or people you know who use Facebook reveal anything be aware that that info is being retained FOREVER…and its being used to develop very personal profiles about YOU.

    Every time you click a “like” or whatever on Facebook, that info isn’t just compiled into an overall statistic of the thing/person/etc. being “liked”….its also another datapoint about YOU. Again, a surprisingly small number of such inputs into the profile of you they’re compiling allows a knowledgable party to extract considerable insight into your personality, likes & dislikes, etc.

    What Facebook will/is doing with that is anybody’s guess. A recent article suggests they are just beginning to figure out ways to exploit the info.

    Of course, the US Government cannot do stuff like that–its illegal, for them… But the likes of Facebook, and many others, do just this — and they’re doing for their selfish interest, not from any altruistic sense of public service….

    What you post about yourself WILL be used to exploit you.

  6. Ken,

    I have no problem with selfish people, it’s the altruistic public servants that I worry about. But, maybe there is a deep parody that I am missing here. Privacy is something of a new invention as anyone who has grown up in a small village would know. Now you have some choice.

  7. As the owner of a small business I regard it as absolutely essential to be in 24 hour contact. I do, however, run separate private and work email accounts to maintain some degree of separation, and if I have a brilliant idea at night or on the weekend I refrain from emailing my staff until working hours, so they at least can maintain work/life balance.

  8. The Blonde Bombshell or Mr. Briggs’ Blonde Bombshell, please keep your posts coming. A feminine touch to this blog is good, my biased opinion obviously.

    I am a modest person with a modest existence. I have a job, which is nothing special, but I do it well.
    This reminds me of the following. (Thanks to Google for recalling the exact words for me.)

    I want to be
    famous
    so I can be
    humble
    about being
    famous.
    What good is my
    humility
    when I am
    stuck
    in this
    obscurity?
    ~ David Budbill (“Dilemma”)