Something a bit off topic today...
Once upon a time, there was a "home" phone and a "work" phone. Your home phone was your personal phone and you used it to talk to friends and family. At work, you used the work phone to conduct whatever business that required it.
In the 1990s, people starting using cell phones. Because these phones and the cell service was terribly expensive, most cell phones were used by business people. Having a cell phone then was a symbol of status and importance. A symbol that people even made fun of. I can remember sitting in a bar in Scottsdale in the mid-1990s. There was a guy sitting at the end of the bar chatting away on his flip-phone. Between us were two women and I heard them commenting about the "uppity asshole with the mobile phone."
As cell phones and cell service became more affordable, lots of regular folk got them. They became a portable version of the personal home phone and eventually even started replacing the landline home phone altogether. There was still a healthy division though of personal and work devices. I was working for a large corporation in the early 2000s and I had my personal cell phone and a company assigned Blackberry. I was not allowed personal calls on the Blackberry. And I never gave out my personal cell number to my work associates--unless they were friends.
For a decade I ran my own successful marketing consulting firm. I worked out of my home and had a landline business phone and a business cell phone. I tried to be very accessible to my clients and worked long hours, but when the work day ended, the ringers were silenced on both devices. I kept my personal cell phone personal.
Over the past six or seven years, I've watched the line between personal and work devices dissolve almost entirely. Today, it is not uncommon for employees to use their personal smartphones to conduct all sorts of business on the job. In some workplaces I have been to, it is expected that you are always connected to work through your personal device. At the company I work for, there are over 700 employees. If you cannot get someone on their landline office phone, you try their cell phone. Many of our younger employees skip using the business line altogether and go right to the personal cell.
Instant, all the time access stretches the work day beyond the normal barriers. I know lots of people who sleep with their iPhones, responding to both work and personal text messages and emails at all hours. When I ended my consultancy and went back to work for someone else, I felt pressured by those around me to connect my personal device to work. Maybe this is just the way it is now and I must do this to be relevant, I thought. For several years, I kept my smartphone with me all the time, responding to texts and emails whenever and wherever I was. Keeping the data flowing was like digging a hole in sand, the more I dug the more sand kept filling up the hole.
One day, fate took over. I stopped to chat with an associate in the parking lot at work. I don't remember why, but I set my smartphone on the roof of my car while we were chatting and ultimately drove off with the thing still on the roof. As I accelerated onto the freeway, I heard a clunk and realized the sound was my phone sliding off the roof, skipping off the trunk lid and bouncing on to the on-ramp. I exited the freeway at the next exit, circled around and saw my iPhone crushed to bits on the ramp.
After some moments of panic, I took a deep breath and decided to try an experiment. This was an opportunity, I thought. I didn't rush out to replace the broken phone. I did without. No cell phone at all for several months. And what happened? Nothing. Work associates asked if I got their text messages. I told them that I did not. I said my phone was broken and I hadn't had time to replace it. For the first few weeks, people called my office landline and told me they'd tried me on my cell and I didn't answer. I repeated the story about leaving my phone on the roof of my car and that until I had time to go to the Apple Store, the best way to reach me was email or office line. People had compassion too..."Oh my gosh! Did you have insurance? No? So sorry...wow... a new iPhone is so expensive!"
Through my experiment, I slowly undid the cell phone leash and discovered how much more effective I was at getting things done when I was in control of the data flow. I realized that my smartphone wasn't a convenience for me it was a convenience for everyone I knew to have access to me. After a few months, I got a new phone and a new phone number. I only gave out the new number to a select few. I've successfully re-programmed my associates to reach out to me on email, which I respond to promptly within reasonable business hours. And it's amazing how everyone now calls me on my office line. And an added benefit--since my cell phone is now just a personal device again without the need for huge chunks of data and unlimited everything, I have reduced my monthly cell phone bill to around $20.
I'm not sure at what point it became acceptable for the home phone and the work phone to become one. I don't think it's healthy. I don't know how people can truly recharge and refresh when they are constantly connected. I am not a luddite. I have an iPad. I am writing this on a MacBook Pro. I use Apple TV. I spend like 10 hours a day staring at one screen or another and using all kinds of technology. However, I think that technology should serve humans. It shouldn't be the other way around.