• United States
IDG Enterprise Consulting Director

Is it good to be constantly connected? You respond.

Jul 18, 20037 mins
Data Center

Technology is a way of organizing the universe so that man doesn’t have to experience it. Max Frisch

Technology is a way of organizing the universe so that man doesn’t have to experience it.Max Frisch

Dear Vorticians,

Talk about connected.

Last week’s column about our “Always On” lifestyle generated a flood of responses from readers – many of whom communicated their thoughts almost instantly upon receiving their Vortex Digests. You read fast, you reply quickly.

To refresh our collective memories, in the previous issue I asked whether our constant connectedness is a healthy thing. Here’s what some of your colleagues wrote in response. (You can still share your thoughts by sending them to me at

Vortician Roger Moody of Sandpiper Synergies said: “John, to succeed, top execs learn quickly to juggle multiple tasks. Many speakers (even some of those at Vortex) drone on with info that’s obvious or already well known. Wi-Fi lets us multiplex instead of wasting valuable time and losing interest. It also allows more time for networking during the breaks.”

I got the following from Vortician John Gentle: “John, I must admit that as an avid user of technology I have the innate desire to be ‘constantly connected’ and do my best to stay so, but realistically it is just impossible to digest that much information constantly. In my situation, working full time while concurrently completing two degrees in information systems security and multimedia, I have a lot on my plate. But I still have no problem maintaining my work performance or my GPA (4.0, thank you very much).

“It seems to me that those individuals who are unable to distinguish between, and incorporate, both their careers and personal lives have issues rooted far deeper than just their lust for connectivity. Even with my hectic schedule I am still able to do all the additional reading and projects demanded by my education, spend quality time with my friends and family (who also live 600 miles away!) and take care of my dog and my home. The root issue here is not addiction to data but time management skills and prioritization. If your relationships are suffering as a result of your data consumption, then you obviously don’t understand the true use or purpose of technology and knowledge, which is, of course, to free yourself! At the risk of sounding trite, the Matrix has you. “

Writing from her post over at Trapeze Networks, one of the arms dealers in the Wi-Fi revolution, Vortician Jenni Brumfield-Adair, shared the following: “I agree that we are addicted to data – for good and bad. A recent example of this was when my computer crashed at the recent Networks for Business tradeshow in the U.K. I felt horrible not being able to get to my e-mail since that’s my lifeline, both professionally and personally.

“E-mail has taken over my life, both in a positive and negative way. In one sense, I feel constrained by e-mail. I feel a need to check it at all times of the day and night, not wanting to miss anything. That takes away from doing other things like relaxing when I get home from work or accomplishing other things while at work. In some sense this makes me good at what I do – I have the ability to get back to an editor or colleague as soon as they send me a message asking for something. This makes editors/colleagues/employers happy, but isn’t always the best thing for me personally, since taking care of myself is usually the last thing that I do. However, I also get excited about checking e-mail to stay in touch with friends and family that I wouldn’t regularly call or see because of time and distance.

“I think we need to strike a balance and get back to calling people on the phone again and only checking e-mail at certain times each day. I need to constantly remind myself that there isn’t anything in my e-mail box that is so urgent it can’t wait a few more minutes or hours. If it was that urgent someone could just call my cell phone, right? As for the addiction part of all of this, maybe we just need lots of 10-step programs and counseling!”

Finally, for this week anyway, Vortician Peter Bernstein of Infonautics Consulting wrote: “Ruminations about addictive behavior in an ‘Always On’ (and ‘All Ways Connected,’ I would add) world, are almost word-for-word the same things we’re told as kids and now tell our kids, about a host of things. In our personal lives the list would include such things as rock and roll, television and video games. Examples of specifics for us Baby Boomers include Elvis and the Beatles, MTV and now Grand Theft Auto. In our professional lives, they range from Solitaire on PCs to Word to Excel to PowerPoint to erotica to Blackberry to erotica over next-generation Blackberries. 

“Columnist Maureen Dowd had an interesting piece a few days back about Adult Attention Deficit Disorder (AADD) as an explanation for why our foreign policy seems driven by a need for a quick war, and then gets bogged down with the laborious and boring task of insuring the peace. Reality is that in every aspect of our lives we have become addicted to the ‘quick fix’ and suffer from AADD.

“Truth be known, the same advice our parents gave us about the boob tube holds true now: There is an OFF button! In the always on and pervasive computing ‘E’ world that we are propagating, there is something better than an OFF button. We have policies, rules and permissions. Indeed, the real revolution we are living through is the passage from a seller-sets-the-rules world to a buyer-sets-the-rules world. ‘Terms of Engagement’ as defined by the user are the emerging ‘Terms of Endearment.’

“Ironically, this brave new world where the end user (broadly defined) actually ‘rules’ – in fact as opposed to in theory – is a world IT created. In the immortal words of Pogo, ‘we have met the enemy and they are us.’ Better yet, we armed them to the teeth, in many cases better than us. As Darth Vader says in the original ‘Star Wars’ when he seemingly kills Obi Wan, ‘The

Student is now the Master!’

“Our business models all dictate a continuation of the arms race. It turns out that this should actually be a good thing. Progress should be measured in how fast we are accelerating the era of user control. Indeed, denial of the power shift in the vendor/customer relationship is one of the reasons the IT industry is stuck in slow growth.

“In the future, we really will be able to stop any time we want to. Why? If our real volition is to stop, the electronic embodiment of that volition, as programmed by us, will make it so. As history demonstrates, addicts only get help once they admit their addiction and convince themselves they must accept help. We are going to be deploying our electronic version of an intervention. It will be interesting to see how many of the addicted decide to opt in, tune out and turn off.”

Thanks to Rog, John, Jenni and Peter, and to everyone else who wrote in. I hope to share some more of your thoughts about our “Always On” lifestyle next week. If you haven’t offered your insights, drop me a note at Bye for now.