" Do You Sleep With Your Smart Phone, Cell Phone and/or Blackberry ? "
Rev. Peter E. Bauer
Several years I ago, I served as the Chief of the then Wounded Soldier Sponsorship Program for the Army Reserve Warrior And Family Assistance Center. This was a world-wide social service assistance program for Army Reservists, their family members and retirees. We were located at Fort McPherson ( now closed ) in Atlanta, Ga. I remember that I lived in very big spacious quarters just behind Officers Row.
This was when I first became acquainted with the Blackberry. What a device; you could use it as a phone but you could also use it for texting and for sending E-Mail. One of the challenges for me, of course, was if you have big fingers like me, you can have a terrible time typing the small keyboard letters. I always had to use a pen to type.
The Blackberry was a blessing and a curse. I had the luxury of being able to send E-Mails from anywhere separate from a desktop computer. The curse, however, was that I was now available twenty-four hours per day.
One morning, I got up and walked out into the kitchen in my quarters to make coffee. I normally kept the Blackberry plugged in charging in my kitchen. I was supposed to travel that day so I was in a hurry. The red light on the device was flashing and I thought that I'd better answer it right away. I looked and discovered that someone had sent me an E-Mail at 2:00 AM in the morning. I thought this must be important.
I rushed and pressed a button accidentally and oops, one third of the inbox E-Mail was gone! I panicked, I got dressed in my uniform, made it over to Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport, called Information Technology ( IT ) for the Army Reserve and tried to recover my E-Mails. The IT support team people were great, but they told me that unfortunately they would not be able to recover the E-Mails for my Blackberry device. However, they informed me that my E-Mails were backed up on the desktop computer in my office.
What is sigh of relief! Tragedy narrowly averted.
I learned that day never attempt to operate a Blackberry unless you have two cups of coffee on board.
We are increasingly witnessing in the corporate and government working environment this phenomena where you have to be available to everyone twenty -four hours a day. Your electronic leash is always with you. You are always available and you are always on, ready to perform, ready to respond.
Can one really be expected to respond to an E-Mail at 2:00 AM in the morning with an intelligent informed response? Does the matter really rise to the level of critical importance to justify an immediate response or can it wait until the morning ?
Furthermore, what does it say about the life of the person who is sending the E-Mail in the middle of the night ?
Technology has certainly provided the contemporary work environment with a lot of great tools that greatly have increased productivity.
However, the insatiable desire to have it all and to have it now has greatly infringed upon the boundaries of personal versus professional life.
For people who are sleeping with their smart phones, cell phones or blackberrys, there is further erosion between what is public versus what is personal space.
If we are a work society that is on 24/7, then there is no Sabbath, there is no down time and there is no chance nor opportunity for rest, regeneration and renewal.
One of the major manifestations of this is the great sleep deficit that is experienced in our country. People get too little sleep, and we see the consequences of that in terms of poor executive functioning including car accidents.
Any wonder why we have ever increasing numbers of people suffering from Anxiety, Depression, Substance Abuse and other mental health disorders ?
David Brooks in his book " The Road To Character " has talked about resume virtues and eulogy virtues. The resume virtues are the things like overseeing a budget of one million dollars. The eulogy virtues are what you read on a tombstone " He/she was a devoted companion and partner. " These are virtues that other people remember regarding the individual's character.
David Brooks also discusses the distinction between Adam I, as the person who strives to succeed materially and Adam II, as the person who desires to develop their life emotionally, psychologically and spiritually ( Brooks 2015 ).
Like the stock market, we need a change in direction for our work environments. We will never get away from the Adam I mentality, our market driven economy will dictate that; but I would argue that we need to strengthen the Adam II part of our psyche.
We need to find a balance again between the material and the spiritual , between what economically supports our lives and that which spiritually saves our souls.
May we have the courage and faith to keep our smart phones, cell phones and blackberrys outside our bedrooms now and always.