Courtesy of Sherry… which is highly ironic, given that she is one of them

BlackBerry outage? Oh, the horror. (LA Times, will want login – to circumvent.)

At my last job I had a BlackBerry. Hell, everyone did. Admittedly, I worked in Waterloo at a tech company, but really, with the exception of, like, the data entry drones, pretty much everyone did have one. (I had the 950 – how primitive!) And they’re handy. From a work perspective they were handy for keeping in touch when people weren’t in the office. Or when people were working late at home. Or to find out where the hell someone was in giant hotels when we were running sales events. But mostly? They were handy for sending your coffee request to whoever just hollered “RIM me” as he/she sailed out the door. Or for cheering or commiserating when our Olympic hockey team was playing the Russkies or the Merkans (depending on who just scored).

I heard “CrackBerry” in use probably two years before I ever saw it in print. And it was used sheepishly even then, because it’s true. They’re highly addictive. Truly, it is a hallmark of our modern age how strongly having or not having new emails (via CrackBerry or Outlook or Gmail or what have you) can affect your mood. I once made a joke to a friend of mine, I don’t even remember the context: “Email: she is not a forgiving mistress”. No shit… BlackBerries are amazing for building a sense of community amongst co-workers. Communication is instant and always-on, and whatever you have to say can be as loud (gigantic cheers of “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” sent to an entire department when Canada wins a gold medal) or as quiet (“Is this meeting ever going to end? Who is that loud breather on the speakerphone?”) sent to a comrade, as you want.

But the problem with the CrackBerry, as with any addiction, is that they stop realizing that certain behaviours are not cool. Just because you want to check your email 15 times during a dinner out with friends doesn’t mean it’s suddenly become less rude to do so. If you’re talking to someone who pulls out the BlackBerry and checks it, it hardly sends a message of “what you’re saying is interesting/important to me”. I once made the mistake of letting my BlackBerry see the light of day when I was out with my parents. It buzzed, and I pulled it out of my pocket while walking towards a restaurant from the parking lot. And was met with a tongue-lashing of impressive fury by my mother. Okie doke. I still think she was overreacting, but I never looked at it again in my parents’ presence. For the CrackBerry addicts I still know (and love, for the most part), the check-check-checking is rude, and annoying, but I’ve been there. I get it. And there are more worthy (and winnable) battles to fight. (And hell, a goodly number of my former co-workers now work at RIM… Heh.)

Jim Balsillie has been quoted talking about being caught by his wife using his BlackBerry at home. There is a household rule of “check it at the door” at their house. People have been caught using them in church, and in courtrooms. Yes, I realize there are important people in the world managing important business. I realize some people use them to manage work that saves lives. And yes, I realize being fully mobile improves productivity, but come on. And the people who “need” to own two, or who wilfully torpedo family relationships with people who hate their addictions to the things? It’s not worth it. Really. Business is not that important. Work can stop. Work should stop.

I have been CrackBerry-less for almost two years now. I don’t miss it. Sure, it would be convenient to be able to place coffee orders with co-workers occasionally, but our patterns are such that I usually don’t need to, and we all have cell phones if need be. And it would be cool to run play-by-play during the upcoming Olympics. I can still do that if I want. We’re WiFi at home. But it’s nice to go home after work and have no choice but to leave work at work. My cell phone is mine, not company-issued. My laptop is mine, not company-issed. I don’t even have VNC access. And if I go out for coffee with you, aside from a possible occasional washroom break, I’ll be listening to you the whole time.

1 Comment on The horror? Nah, not really.

  1. The Other Side:

    Yes, I check it after dinner, like a nightcap. Yes, the sleek form of it in my hands is somehow calming. Yes, no matter where I go from here, I’ll probably demand one.

    It is another manisfestation of information addiction, alongside the numerous blogs, email accounts, IMs, rss feeds, sites and such that all of us in this headspace count on every day. We want the unexpected, or the funny, or the thought-provoking depending on our mood. And since we are socially inept in most cases, the nature of this addiction suits our addiction very well.

    As you note, “Truly, it is a hallmark of our modern age how strongly having or not having new emails (via CrackBerry or Outlook or Gmail or what have you) can affect your mood.”

    Yell-typing while Team Canada is beating the Merkans, or whisper-chatting in a particularly boring meeting or having the ability to send a one-liner to someone as it hits your brain is where the human connection part comes in. Yeah, yeah. One might argue that we should a) be in the same room; b) TALK. But somehow the idea of each one of us being in a different environment, with different people, and sharing this one thing is more fun (and addictive). Anyone who’s had the experience of an email conversation with two or parties, each of you in a different country, felt *sexy* doing so. How can one not like that?

    And sometimes it’s good for work, too.

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