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Sunday, August 29, 2010

The BlackBerry, my Frenemy

Last week, my company-issued BlackBerry Curve 8310 died.  When I say it died, I don't mean that something malfunctioned; it simply would not turn on anymore.  I was secretly excited.  I figured I'd have a glorious carefree weekend without my electronic tether.

After all, the BlackBerry (affectionately known in our household as the Crackberry; I have no idea who coined the term but we adopted it as our own)  has been both the bane of and the panacea to my existence since it arrived at our household. My husband brought the first one home from work in 2004.  It was a curious  thing, and while I was impressed with its possibilities back then, it was also the chief relationship-interrupter.  It would go off and my partner would drop everything.  I found myself wanting to sabotage it and did everything I could  to get him to ignore it.  In fact, when we went on vacation in Hawaii, I intentionally buried my nemesis in a pile of dirty laundry in hopes that he wouldn't hear it.

A few years later, I was nine months' pregnant and my RAZR3 died.  By this time I was lusting after the QWERTY keyboard and it now had access to the web.  Thus began the "love" portion of the show.  Through  the next few months, when stay-at-home moms became my idols and I truly realized how amazing and rare that talent was, my new CrackBerry became the one connection I had to the outside world.  I could breastfeed and check on the world news (which I was in no emotional position to check), read and surf the Web, chat with a friend, anything to get through that first few months.

As I went back to work, the CrackBerry further embedded itself in my life.  I received one for work shortly thereafter.  At first, it was great because I could answer little emergencies without firing up my dinosaur of a laptop which took 20 minutes to load.  I did start to observe, however, that perhaps I was spending a bit too much time paying attention to the CrackBerry and not, say, having a conversation.  It was all too easy to confuse the urgent with the important.

Then the project at work got really crazy and my work CrackBerry started competing for my time with my child.  Back to hating it I went.  I would have done anything to go back to the RAZR; everyone expected that I read their email as soon as I got it.  It is much easier to ask someone to work the weekend over email which seems less confrontational than actually having to talk to the person to do it, right?  Soon I was working during almost every time my daughter went down for a nap.

Lately, my husband and I are still in the process of learning to balance our electronic ball and chains with our personal lives.  This certainly got worse when we bought iPhones for our personal use, to the point where our daughter, at 27 months, already tells us "No phone.  I here" when we get sucked in.  Fortunately, that all-too-embarrassing and telling moment is rare around here.  If we were never admonished, it would be even better.

At some point, we learned to turn the darn things off and to stop picking them up in our downtime.  Life got a lot less crazy.  We still do our share of zoning out from time to time, but we've realized our time with each other is a lot more important than what someone posted on Facebook or the latest work disaster.  We pick them up when we know there's something in particular going on for work, but those weekends are the exception rather than the rule.

All of which led me to anticipate a blissfully ignorant weekend.  I did have my blissfully ignorant weekend, but I guess I haven't been noticing how many of those I've been having recently, so it was not all that different until Monday morning when I realized I had no idea where I was supposed to be.  Did I have a meeting?  Where was it?  Somehow it really turned into my day-planner more than anything.

I'm not sure whether the smartphone has affected me in a positive or negative way.  In some respects, my attention span is surely shorter than it used to be, but at least I am more prompt.  As a society, we consume an astonishing array of information, but what we have gained in breadth, we might have lost in depth.  When was the last time you read an entire newspaper instead of skimming the headlines on a website?  Do these grown-up toys make our lives more enjoyable for what we can do with them, or have they killed our ability to find joy?  What do you think?  I'm sitting on the fence for now (with Pandora playing in the background, skimming the Wall Street Journal . . . )

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