In the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time getting myself into blogging and FaceBook. As I’ve thought about it, these are two of an explosion of new means of communicating that have become widely available during the last several years. Learning how to use them, with whom, for what, and with which of alternate providers of similar services has been a new experience – one that has made new demands on my time.
Thinking back, through my school years, I had three basic means of communicating: personal conversation, letters, and telephone. New technologies provided fax machines and mobile phones. Then personal computers and telecommunications networks opened up entirely new kinds of communication: desktop publishing, email, personal websites, user help forums. Combining PCs with mobile communications gave us instant messaging, Internet phone and videophone service. Add camcorders and iPods and we got YouTube and podcasting. Now we also have blogging, social networking sites (like FaceBook and MySpace), and instant mass broadcasting (Twitter).
With this expansion of types and means of communicating has come the explosion of volume of personal communications: more types of communication, more frequently, with more people. There are evolving expectations of responsiveness (can I ignore instant messages when I know the sender can see that I’m online and active?). Add Internet surfing to find information and just try out neat stuff. And this is on top of the explosion of commercial communications: junk mail & faxes, telemarketing, spam, pop-ups, plus all the news services. And I’ve probably left out some other major communications mechanisms.
How are we to manage this new volume and its demand on our time and attention?
New technology will eventually help (my answering machine and two phone lines let me direct commercial calls to my answering machine so I can ignore most of them; spam and junk mail filters, like anti-virus programs, fight a never-ending battle of who can be more clever). I’ve found ways to link my Twitters and Blogger entries to FaceBook, but I still have a net added demand on my time to read, respond to, and generate all this new communication. (That’s why I’m writing this at midnight.)
I’m afraid the personal assistant avatars that the futurists at Xerox PARC predicted 20 years ago won’t come soon enough; technology still hasn’t met its promise of giving me less paper or more leisure time. So I guess I’ll just have to cope with even more work – even if it’s the pleasant work of staying in touch with friends and family.
Perhaps with the expanded level of communications, some folk more experienced at this will provide me help by suggesting ways they’ve found to cope!