I was talking with Mr.Man the other day and his pants kept vibrating. I see that effect on people.
No, no, sorry. I mean, his Blackberry is set to ping him every time an e-mail arrives, and the man gets two hundred messages a day. He’s got the palm-in, wrist-up Blackberry unholster motion down.
But does anybody really need to be that connected? Are those messages so important that they can’t wait for him to finish being bored by me and get back to his desk? No, of course not. That’s not the point. It’s not the importance of the messages that demands they be checked immediately, it’s the volume.
With the amount of crap being vomited up by his Ethernet connection — all day, every day — it’s tough to walk away from the spigot for fear that he’ll return to waist-deep water. He reads his mail in real-time to avoid being greeted by a hundred-message pile-up when he gets back from lunch. Bringing the computer with you is the only way to keep up.
One’s entire life can be devolved into an endless, grinding slog through his/her back-log. Everything he/she can do is about catching up, doing the stuff he/she didn’t get done the day before, plowing through some other goddamned thing that needs his/her attention. Ending the day without actually adding to the total aggregate is a victory. There are times when it piles up faster than he/she can shovel it away.
And the computers are at fault, of course. Always the computers.
The tools you use to manage information have evolved to the point where you can abdicate the tedious process of gathering it all together to them, and they now do a very diligent job of making sure that it’s all brought to your attention. Endlessly. Maddeningly.
The proper solution, of course, is to further improve the tools. There are plenty of rants out there about how to fix feed readers and e-mail clients or to allow community filtering and sort-by-affinity. And that’s all great, and I’ll heartily welcome the day when Outlook is smart enough to simply trash the messages that I’m going to trash anyway, before I even see them. (Rule: “From: XXX” to “Deleted Items”.)