Only Real Blackberries

I left my cell phone in the van yesterday and my son took the van to work. By some happy coincidence, our internet connection was down all day. When it dawned on me that now I was unreachable except by the old-fashioned landline and the ancient written letter, I felt the tension ease from my shoulders for the first time in months. Time slowed. Suddenly, no one was expecting an answer to anything immediately. I even had a few minutes to wonder how it is that we have begun to boil in a fast paced society much like the frog who was unaware that the heat was being turned up as he lingered in a formerly cool pot.

I remember a time when I didn’t have a cell phone. For the longest time, I didn’t want one. I am not the greatest driver in the world and I don’t really like to be distracted by anything in addition to half a dozen kids when I drive. So, a cell phone in the car would certainly put me over the top. I resisted for a very long time. Finally, the day came when I recognized that with a cell phone would come the convenience of talking with my husband any time, no matter where he was in the country. Since he travels frequently, often on the weekends when I am away from the house with our children, it seemed like a good idea.

Then there was the computer. It began with a single e-mail account and a couple of online home-schooling support groups administrated through e-mail. Over time, I acquired two or three more e-mail accounts, a home-schooling message board, blogs and blogrolls, Facebook, Twitter, and a new Catholic social networking site (Faith and Family Connect). That was my virtual world. But my “real life” world ended up in my inbox as well. Five or six different coaches, a ballet teacher, the team managers from four different teams, the social managers from those teams and my real life home-schooling groups all have 24/7 access to me through my computer. Theoretically, so do my family and friends, including immediate family in distant places. And every single person who communicates this way expects an answer right away because, after all, it’s electronic and electronic means “instant.”

What those electronic communicators don’t know is that I read most of their messages with a baby at my breast or a toddler on my lap. I rarely have my hands free to respond. No matter how compelling their story or pressing their question, my husband expects to find clean socks in his drawer and my children need to be fed at least three times a day. Often, I read and then walk away from the computer. There is life happening in the rest of my house, the rooms without computers. That fact really bothers some of the people in my computer.

I’m learning that just as cell phones have made it so that people expect to be able to reach someone by voice anywhere, any time, “Blackberries” are making it so everyone assumes we are checking e-mail and Web sitess everywhere, all the time. Recently, a coach canceled a baseball game. He sent an e-mail around three in the afternoon. News flash: “Mothers at home” are not sedentary. Usually, we are out in the world at three in the afternoon. Don’t assume we are checking e-mail. Ah, but he did assume just that. “You don’t have a Blackberry?” No. I don’t.

Can’t we please slow down? My fear is that we are accumulating technology that allows life to move faster and faster and faster until we reach such a dizzying pace that there is absolutely no time for human touch, poetic language (no poetry in text messages) or meaningful moments of silence. Frankly, the only blackberries I want are the kind you pick from among the brambles on a quiet, hot July day in a place where the tinny ring of a cell phone would sound sacrilegious.

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  • A little irony here: I’m reading this on my Blackberry on the commute in NoVA…

    She’s right on the need to be real…to paraphrase Pope Benedict: “technology was made for Man, not the other way ’round”

  • Warren Jewell

    Christ mentioned only the Sabbath as made for man – anything else beyond, and outside of life and grace, has to be given a discerning eye. Sometimes, they are gifts only as we use them with God’s glory and love in mind.

  • It’s possible to be choosy with technology though it may defy the expectations of other people in our lives. You have to do what’s best for you — and your mental health — and let other people adjust to that. For myself, I have opted for no cell phone and only one email account, and I have stopped running my blog because of the time commitment. There have been no problems because the other people in my life know that if they want to reach me, they just have to pick up the phone (I do have an answering machine). Of course, I’ve never set up the expectation for greater availability; it’s probably harder to get out from under the overuse of technology than it is not to use it so much in the first place. You just have to say “no” because you know what’s good for you.