In the comments for my Seven Days on article, I said the following in a comment when asked about using my BlackBerry during 18 hour workdays:

Yes, the 18-hour workday is the curse of the author
and the independent freelancer. Sure we can take breaks as we wish but
in order to keep things moving forward on impossible deadlines we must
be tethered to technology — the web and our email — for research and
survival all day long.

My BlackBerry goes everywhere with me — even on my bed stand
— and during the day it sometimes even shows me my email before my
desktop by a minute or two or three or four — so I can read it on my
BlackBerry first, think about a reply and then Zingo! type my reply on
the computer keyboard within seconds of the email touching my Inbox.

When I’m out and about the BlackBerry becomes the Lifeline in every imaginable way. It’s fantastic! Or is it a curse?
There’s no such thing as “turning off” anymore.

Does technology rule or ruin your life?
How many hours a day do you spend touching a computer?

How many hours a day is your computer turned on and connected to the
Internet even if you aren’t actively interacting with the web?

How often does your email program check for new mail?

Are you ever truly able to “turn off” and disconnect your life from the
Internet ether or is you mind always connected and wondering what’s out
there and what’s waiting for you?


  1. I try to keep away for the technological tether as much as I can because work can become a 24 hour a day proposition if you let it.
    There was an article about young attorneys working for places that require huge billable hours working on their laptops and Blackberries at 11 p.m. in coffee shops so they could keep up with work while being around other people. Of course, there isn’t much social interaction if you in a crowd, but are alone doing work.
    Like everything else, balance is always important. I find I’m happier if I can get away from all of the communication devices for a little while at some point during the day.
    Instead of freeing us for more leisure time, cell phones and Blackberries can end up becoming electronic leashes.

  2. Hi Chris!
    I know attorneys have it rough. To make the most money they need to always be on the clock. It can be a vicious circle of productivity vs. prosperity vs. perpetual burnout.
    Cutting the leash is necessary, but increasingly impossible — especially for middle class workers hoping to get ahead or just meet the needs of their bills.
    I know several families who work at a traditional job during the day and then come home and work from home at a second job via their computers at night! They double-shift that way. Medical billing can be a profitable work-from-home job.

  3. I sometimes dream of owning a Blackberry – and then the reality of what it represents kicks in.
    I currently have a land line phone, and a broadband connection – I do not have a mobile phone. We do not have the reception here to justify a mobile phone that would only work in certain areas, in certain conditions.
    Living in such a rural area my life would be very different without the technology that I do have. It is means of keeping in touch with the world – more so now than the television or radio might have been To answer your specific questions
    Does technology rule or ruin your life?
    Sometimes – then I have to redress the balance.
    How many hours a day do you spend touching a computer?
    Far too many at times – can be as much as 14 -16 hours.
    How many hours a day is your computer turned on and connected to the Internet even if you aren’t actively interacting with the web?
    I am a good girl now and diconnect it when I am not using it – I learnt my lesson from too many thunderstorms.
    How often does your email program check for new mail?
    Googlemail is live and is always on in the background if I am on line.
    Are you ever truly able to “turn off” and disconnect your life from the Internet ether or is you mind always connected and wondering what’s out there and what’s waiting for you?
    I make a point of having days off and days out – sometimes I even get to work away from the computer which is great.
    I have to balance all this against the fact that the computer and the internet makse it possible fo me to live where I live and do what I do.

  4. Hi Nicola!
    I agree technology binds us together no matter where we live. The rural and the urban can be bound together in the same core of understanding.
    A BlackBerry is great because it releases you from your computer while still allowing you to remain independent and autonomous because you decide the if and the when of your reply. You can either peck out a BlackBerry reply or consider a more thoughtful reply when you later hit a proper keyboard.
    There are lots of folks who say leave your computer on 24/7 because it will last longer. You’re right though, that without proper power protection you’re better off shutting down your computer if you aren’t directly using it.
    I, too, leave Gmail and the Gmail Notifier active at all times. It makes for a lovely online experience.

  5. I used to leave mine computer on – however I am one hard drive down, and one UPS, one router and two network cards down so far this year – I now turn it off and unplug the router now if I am going to be away for longer than an hour.
    (I am now dreaming of Blackberries again!)

  6. Nicola!
    Yes. Your plan is good. You never can be too protective against energy spikes when it comes to preserving your lifeline.
    Oh, you’ll do well with a BlackBerry 8700c:
    In addition to updating you on new messages from any email account you choose, you can also send PIN messages to other BlackBerrys.
    PIN messages are free and private and BlackBerry-to-BlackBerry only and they have a small “D” next to them that lets you know when the other BlackBerry accepted “D”elivery of your message so you know the message is there waiting on the other end!
    The older BlackBerrys had a “D” that would change to an “R” when “R”ead — that was super duper because then you knew the other person had READ your message! I guess it was too much information, though, and RIM turned off the “R” status icon and just left it with the “D” icon.
    I find my BlackBerry allows me to do other things in the house and neighborhood without fear of missing something important. It is a great Freedom-giver!

  7. Here’s a fascinating report from the Financial Times on the increase in web use:

    Print consumption has re-mained static at three hours a week in the past two years, as time spent online has doubled from two to four hours. Viewers are also spending more time watching television, up from 10 hours to 12 a week.
    The Jupiter Research survey of more than 5,000 people in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain shows that Europeans’ use of the internet is still behind the rates seen in the US. A similar study by Jupiter of US habits found that Americans now spend 14 hours a week online – as much time as they spend watching television – and just three hours reading print.
    However, the rapid spread of fast broadband internet connections in Europe is likely to accelerate the trend. The average time spent online by broadband customers in Europe was seven hours a week, compared with two hours for those with dial-up connections.
    In France, where 79 per cent of online households have broadband connections, the typical user is online for five hours a week, compared with only three hours a week in Germany, which has a broadband penetration rate of 42 per cent.

  8. Now this is funny! Here’s a report on how people fritter away their traditional workday online:

    The biggest distraction for respondents? Personal Internet use. 44.7% of the more than 10,000 people polled cited web surfing as their #1 distraction at work. Socializing with co-workers came in second at 23.4%. Conducting personal business, “spacing out,” running errands, and making personal phone calls were the other popular time-wasting activities in the workplace.

  9. I am quite fond of hand written letters and face-to-face encounters with my friends. In fact, I have been accused of being one step away from being Amish.
    I’m not particularly compelled to check emails daily as most of it is junk (spam or even mass emails about nothing). I have a prepaid cellphone, a gift from a friend who found it difficult to reach me, which is rarely on and only with me when I am planning to meet someone or on the road at night. The primary function of the cellphone is a phone directory. At home, I feel no need to race to the phone when it rings as I am generally all talked out from the workday.

  10. A S!
    You aren’t Amish — you’re a Luddite!
    I’m not a big fan of the phone, either, but I do love electronic communication. I’m surprised you aren’t more regularly managing your online life! WE MISS YOU ON THE WEEKENDS!

  11. Interesting articles there – we tend to have dropped our newspaper reading – we get one if we are out – we do not make a special journey for them. We also tend to use the internet rather than the TV for our news coverage as well a lot of the time – because we are already at the computer – it is one click away and you can go and search for different takes on the news, rather than listen to a particular stations slant.

  12. We pretty much have the same set up here, Nicola! I real the NYTimes online only and I get all my entertainment info and planning from the web. If news breaks, I head to all my websites. I don’t reach for the TV remote any longer.

  13. Right! The TV is so loud and annoying. On the web you can control you environment much better and if you’re using Firefox and Adblock Plus, you get all the ad crud removed from site before it even loads in your browser!

  14. Oh, yeah. I’m just glad we have some way to get rid of all the crust from our eyes. Having a clean viewspace again — even if it’s just in a web browser — is a wonderful feeling of control and contentment.

  15. Lets see, we have a landline telephone and a broadband internet connection. I spend probably three or four hours a day online, checking emails, and an ever growing blogroll and chatting with a few friends on msn. Then I have the joy of coming back to “reality” with housework lol.
    Although I don’t spend ALL day online, our PC is turned on 24/7, with us just rebooting when we need to.
    In having said that, Jeff is looking to buy a Mac. For film/television editing, the PC just doesn’t cut it. So, next year we’ll have a Mac, a PC, our landline telephone AND a cellphone too. (Jeff needs a cellphone for work calls from the IATSE film union dispatch – they say a cell is a necessity.)
    And looking back over what I’ve typed, I’d LOVE to be able to say that Technology isn’t a huge thing in our household … but sadly, it’s becoming more and more so.

  16. Thanks for sharing your technological life, Dawn!
    The computer will overtake the television in five years. We’ll do everything through a keyboard. We will also only watch On Demand shows that fit our schedule instead of the other way around.
    Good luck on your Mac purchase! That will be great fun!

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