Remember when replying to a letter could wait until tomorrow? Or when someone left you a message and it had to wait until the end of the day to be read?
Instant messaging (IM), e-mail, smartphones and the internet in general have fueled the 24/7 availability syndrome.
If someone doesn’t reply to my IM in a few seconds, I start getting aggravated. If my e-mail goes more than a few hours without a reply, I start sending IMs to make sure they read it. And I find myself checking my e-mail every 15 minutes of my waking hours.
In short, we have come to expect people to tend to our needs immediately.
The problem I see with this culture is not the stress caused by feeling we need to be available at all times but the disappearance of interpersonal relationships. Technology doesn’t have a face, brain, voice or feelings, and makes it easy to forget there’s a person on the receiving end. Technology has created the opportunity to increase productivity at the expense of human interaction.
A few examples:
- In a meeting, everyone is looking at their smartphone.
- At a restaurant, people text others instead of talking to the person in front of them.
- Cube mates instant message each other instead of talking.
- We use e-mail, text, and instant messaging instead of a phone call or a visit.
One thought on how does this happen: Technology is easier to deal with than people.
It’s harder to be insensitive about people’s needs when you can see their reactions and hear their tone of voice. The simple effect of seeing an immediate emotional response to our actions makes us be more prudent and understanding of delays in getting stuff done. Technology doesn’t push back; it just does what it’s told.
To all leaders out there, put down your phone, close the laptop, and start connecting with the people around you. Great leaders SERVE.