Normal service is not resumed

You may have noticed that I’ve been pretty quiet of late. In terms of posts per day, this is the quietest month I’ve had since I started blogging. Now when you consider the fact that I had a major heart attack last December and still managed to blog pretty regularly, the emptiness of June 2007 takes some explaining. So here goes.

As with many things, it started with something apparently unconnected. Reason One was that I moved home. And it took me a while to get everything sorted out in my new home; for the first time in many years, I had a taste of what it felt like to be Without The Net. It felt strange, very strange.

Which brings me to Reason Two. My wife and I had had many discussions over the years, about the way computers could intrude into family life, in fact actually damage family life, if care was not taken. We’d learnt how to deal with television, to deal with time shifted TV, with video games, and even with computers…. or so we thought. Or so I thought, anyway. My wife disagreed with me. And guess what?

I was wrong. As laptops with wireless connections became the norm rather than the exception, and as social networking sites blossomed, our home lives had begun to change, albeit subtly. I realised that my wife had been right all along, we had been risking something precious in our family life, and it was time to take action.

There was a third reason: since my moving home had “enforced” a layoff from being online for all of us at home, for once I had the opportunity to observe what my children did as a result, and to continue learning from them. Seeing what they asked me to do for them online while connected at work; seeing what they went to friends’ houses to do online; seeing what they didn’t care about;  seeing what displacement activities came up, how they spent their time as a result.  If anything, everything I’d observed endorsed the call to action.


The action I’ve taken is to spend less time online, to encourage my family to reduce their time as well, and to do other things together as a result; naturally, this means I will post less often. I hope to make up for the deficiency in quantity by raising the quality of my posts. I haven’t stopped thinking, or reading, or talking to people.

Apologies for the lack of warning; it was one of those things that just happened as I thought about things, something I am wont to do every now and then.

7 thoughts on “Normal service is not resumed”

  1. Communicating and learning on-line are obviously very rewarding activities, but as with anything there’s just a limit to what you can do without neglecting something else. I’ve also found that I need time off, time where I don’t think and don’t communicate, which is why I absolutely need a regular work-out. To me what it boils down to is being able to balance your intellectual needs with your social and physical ones – and with the needs of those who are close to you.

  2. The next dot com bubble bust is attention deficit.?
    There are two big issues today :
    Convergence and Bling.

    Fiddling with cell phones to set them up to reflect lifestyle needs when setting up is easier on a laptop is silly. Managing television mashup with a TV remote is near impossible when time is at a premium. Switching from TV to Internet content and back for both TV sets and laptops to pull what ever content is desired is a nightmare. Using a games console to send email is not possible.

    There may be some ill considered competitive walled garden thinking behind this but in the end convergence has to be part of the mix.

    That is not to say that vendors can package what they think consumers need. BT in the UK offers a broadband package that has all manner of bling. Stuff I don’t want (do I really need yet another email address, access to ghastly musak, or push content from magazines I have no interest in?) . In an era of user generated market, and social segments, second guessing consumer needs using conventional segmentation techniques is nuts.

    It just adds to attention deficit and you are an example of the rebellion against it.

    Its hard to make these ideas understood but perhaps one can make it easy for organisations that remain wedded to one of the ugly sisters of modern management – marketing:

    Bling bad – service good.
    Push bad – pull good.

    Then we can all get on with the lives we want.

  3. I’ve just had to go throught the exact same thing with my teanage daughter. The computer was separating her further and further away from the family.

    The shame of it is, is that her father can be just as bad, if not worse at times and I have to force myself to step away from the computer.

    Like you, my wife could see this much more clearly than I, why? … because I was stuck on the mac!! She demands family meals where we sit down together and communicate.

    It’s the fact that you “tune out” when you get absorbed in the computer world, any other distraction, family or otherwise, becomes a real frustration. The more time you spend, the harder it is to step away.

    I listen to the way my daughter responds when I ask her a question when she’s MSN’ing to her friends, or playing some game … and it’s too much like a mirror image of her “Grumpy Old dad” … not good.

    So I’m right there with you JP …. Quality not Quantity. More to talk about when you do post.

    In my Daughter’s case I use a tool called “ezOff” that enables me to turn her computer off at set times during the day and only allow her to log back in after a reasonable period of time. That was a hard fight at first but it seems to have worked and we ahve a better routine.

    I haven’t quite figured out which tool to use on myself :) …

  4. I think it is really great that you have discovered that there are some real virtues in the social side of the physical world that do not necessarily reside or port very well into the virtual world. I wish you all the best in discovering the richness of physical social engagement that goes beyond just talking to people into all sorts of subtleties that still elude even the most media-rich virtual domains. All I wish now is that more people responsible for customer service would experience a similar “conversion on the road to Damascus!”

  5. My daughter Becky is, as you know JP, a wheelchair user. She can type a bit on her own but very slowly and laboriously. So for many tasks I tend to work with her, looking for information, sending and receiving mail, helping her compose the articles and talks she produces on her professional subject. I have discovered what should be obvious, that joint working in the e-world has a totally different feel to working alone. How often do you sit down at a screen with someone? I’m going to start collecting exemplar moments and will report if a pattern emerges.

  6. JP–like you I recently conducted a home move, but I moved from DC to London and have had to “reboot” my entire activities in my personal and professional life. Just yesterday after 6 weeks did I finally receive connectivity in my home again. As a die hard social networker, work addict and communicator who suffers from attention deficit disorder–I was going mad.

    I actually logged my emotions daily from the inability to work at home, online transacting(banking, shopping, researching) and communicating with friends and family. My emotions ranged from relief, frustration, feeling lost, disconnected, withdrawals, angry, annoyed and generally irritated. Not having a connection required me to go in really early to work to potentially get connected and conduct the activities I needed to run my life that I could no longer do in the privacy of my home. Thus, there was less sleep and life was just inefficient–causing great angst.

    Your blog got me thinking–not only about the lack of intimacy the net provides within one’s home but the impacts on one personally when it is gone. And in relation to your comments, I almost didn’t know what to do with myself–here we were to a new area, no TV (haven’t paid the mandatory TV license), few friends and no broadband! It gave me time to prioritise other areas in my life and sightsee in London–but the lack of connectivity really impacted my mood much more than I ever hoped or desired. It is almost disturbing to realise how integrated it is into your daily life and the “unidentified hobbies” you develop online.

    Now that I am online–the work is to manage the addiction. Thanks for your insights.

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