February 16, 2010, 10:52 AM — A reader responded to my inaugural post earlier this week, pointing out what she called the "ugly truth" behind this blog:
It's the ugly truth: If you work in IT, you're in it 24/7. The cloud can help you keep work and personal life in check, but some argue that it's this very concept that's killing personal life...
The jury is still out on this one. If it wasn't, I probably wouldn't have nearly as much to write about in this blog. I think it's pretty safe to say that our concept of a "personal life" has certainly changed. It wasn't all that long ago that none of us would have considered it a good idea to post every pithy thought and insignificant event in our lives on Twitter or Facebook. What you did with your kids over the weekend, or how much you liked a restaurant where you ate with your partner might have been watercooler talk on Monday, but they were really too personal to post on the Web, right?
My point is that what we consider our "personal life" has certainly bled into something much more public, all thanks to the joys of the World Wide Web. The Web has, in the same way, allowed our professional lives to bleed right into those same personal lives. How many of your tweets are about your job? How many of your tweets are about your hobbies or the things you do on the side? How many of those tweets that aren't about work are posted from your office?
More significantly, how many times has the Internet allowed you to be doing something personal when you'd normally be in the office? This summer, I rescued a grant while I was on vacation in Maine. In fact, I rescued it while I was fishing. On a canoe. Last week, I was able to run the sledding station at Winter Field Day with one of my kids (in fact, one of the only times of the season when I'm glad I live in New England). My Blackberry at my side, I was able to deal with critical issues from the office (people get fussy about payroll for some reason and tend to email me when the HR server goes down) and put off most of what I needed to do until I got home that afternoon and could work remotely.
Of course, I had to wait to check a few emails that came buzzing through since the second-graders seemed intent on aiming for a couple apple trees and I had to throw myself in their paths, but the point is that I was there with my kid, the boss stayed happy, and people will get paid this week.
Like I said, the jury is still out. My wife is not nearly as attached to my Blackberry as I am and resents its constant presence and associated tether to the office. "Can't you ever leave that thing at home?" she asks. The answer? "Nope, not really, sweetheart." The instant access afforded by my Blackberry and my constant online status when I'm near a computer has made the users I support come to expect nearly instantaneous response. One user recently sent a followup email a few hours after her first asking if I was OK since I hadn't responded in my usual 10-minute timeframe.
For now, I thrive on the connectivity and the ability to juggle work, home, and writing through technology. I would not, however, be the first to burn out on this level of "connectedness." How about you? Do you ever turn off the smartphone, leave your email behind, disconnect from the Net, and otherwise fully disengage from work? And on the flipside, do you ever fully disengage from home when you're at work?