Smartphone: From Gadget to Necessity?
Via Twitter (@MelissaTweets and @Armano) I see a week-old NYT piece from Steve Lohr titled “Smartphone Rises Fast From Gadget to Necessity.”
For a growing swath of the population, the social expectation is that one is nearly always connected and reachable almost instantly via e-mail. The smartphone, analysts say, is the instrument of that connectedness — and thus worth the cost, both as a communications tool and as a status symbol.
“The social norm is that you should respond within a couple of hours, if not immediately,” said David E. Meyer, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. “If you don’t, it is assumed you are out to lunch mentally, out of it socially, or don’t like the person who sent the e-mail.”
The spread of those social assumptions may signal a technological crossover that echoes the proliferation of e-mail itself more than a decade ago. At some point in the early 1990s, it became socially unacceptable — at least for many people — to not have an e-mail address.
I’ve had a BlackBerry for a couple of years now and have been a quick-turnaround responder to emails for a decade or so. (The rise of spam, into which category I place most pitches by PR firms and others seeking to have me blog on their topics has diminished my response rate considerably. I do, however, tend to respond quite quickly to “real” emails received between, say, 7 am and 9 pm Eastern that seem to call for a response.) Being able to keep up with my communications without being tied to my desk has been invaluable and I far prefer the asynchronicity of email to the interruption of telephone calls.
The social — and, increasingly, professional — expectation of being constantly available, however, is much more bane than boon. I’m generally more than happy to take a couple minutes out of my evening or weekend to help someone out with a quick question so they can continue progress on whatever they’re doing without waiting until 9 am the next workday. But, for many people, it has become more than that: a culture where one is never truly off work. While I have no idea what to do about it, that’s not a positive development.
UPDATE: Melissa Clouthier observes,
Moms are never off the clock. And there’s always a kid interrupting, bugging, and harrying the mother during her tasks. I’ve breastfed. The smart phone has got nothing on a 3 month old.
With smart phones, we’re all mothers now.
Of course, the smart phone is in addition to life’s normal demands. The fact that the baby’s crying because her teeth are coming in doesn’t stop the emails from coming in.