Column: How would life be without technology

• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on April 7, 2010

I sometimes wonder about how different my life might be without technology.

Northwest Herald editor Dan McCaleb recently wrote a column about how it is getting harder for him to separate journalism Dan from relationship Dan – or, maybe more simply – work Dan from home Dan.

The reason, he writes, is technology.

More specifically: “Facebook. LinkedIn. Twitter. YouTube.” Also known in some circles as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

In journalism, as in a growing number of professions, technology has made it nearly impossible to leave one’s work at work. Cell phones, smart phones, laptops and pagers make us reachable at all times.

Unless, of course, we turn off the technology.

I know. I know. Heaven forbid.

What if somebody needs to get ahold of us?! There could be an emergency! Maybe I’ll check it just this once to see if someone left a text.

And, like that, you’re hooked back in. Connectivity is the latest drug of choice.

The question is, however, is this good or is this bad?

It’s fairly obvious that people are communicating now more than ever before.

Facebook status updates let us know how a friend is feeling at that moment. LinkedIn updates let us know how a friend’s professional life is going. Farmville updates let us know how much free time a friend has.

We are inundated with information about those in not only our close circle of friends, but also that outside ring of friends and acquaintances – the high school classmate you haven’t thought about since graduation, the former coworker, that person you sort of/kind of remember from that thing at the place – you know what I’m talking about.

And the temptation to share a similar amount of information can sometimes be unwise.

I don’t write anything on my Facebook page that I wouldn’t want the whole world to see. I don’t tweet anything I wouldn’t want my boss or readers to see. And I certainly don’t post anything on YouTube that could potentially embarrass myself, my family or my newspaper. (In other words, that home video my brother and I made in grade school recreating “Star Wars” is never going to see the light of day. We used preschool hockey sticks as light sabers. I repeat, NEVER going to see the light of day.)

I’m typing this column on a laptop using the Web. I have a tab open connected to my Google Reader that alerts me when another newspaper puts anything on its Web site. My TweetDeck instantly lets me know when any of the 300 people and organizations I’m following on Twitter posts a tweet. And, of course, my StatTracker is running, which lets me know how my fantasy baseball team is doing.

All of these are items that are supposed to enable me to get through tasks quicker, yet all of them continue to have an increasingly powerful black-hole effect on my time. And, to make things worse, I will probably buy a smartphone in the next few months.

I will then be connected at all times. Just call Borg now, and get it over with. (A Star Trek and a Star Wars reference all in the same column? My inner geek is shining brightly tonight.)

So what does this mean for journalism Joe and relationship Joe? As McCaleb writes, in today’s world, there is little you can do to prevent them from colliding.

McCaleb writes that he’ll deal with it. As for me, well, I suppose I’ll do the same. And then I’ll update my Facebook page with how it’s going.

Joe Grace is the editor of the Kane County Chronicle. You can write to him at jgrace@kcchronicle.com or call him at 630-845-5368.

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