Wednesday, February 4, 2009

To Blackberry or Not...

I had an appointment in the New York City yesterday that would require me to spend several hours in a waiting room, followed by several more hours in another waiting room. The night before, faced with this prospect (and the one and half hours that I’d be spending on the train into and out of New York City) and thinking about other “wasted” times spent sitting around, I started to wonder: is it time to get a Blackberry?

As you all know, I work from home. Technically, although I do work for other people on a freelance basis, I work for myself. Should time spent sitting in a waiting room be productive, or should this be the time I catch up on my reading, make new friends (people in waiting rooms tend to want to talk to other people in the waiting room), or just meditate? I haven’t decided. But the pull toward the personal data assistant or whatever PDA stands for, is getting greater, and I turn to you, oh venerated Stiletto Gang readers for advice.

My sister, who works for a company who offers these devices and calling plans, said, “They’re great. But you are married to them then.” Another friend couldn’t live without hers. Would I become a slave to the PDA or forget I even had it? Do I really need to check my email every few minutes throughout the day, regardless of where I am? I’m undecided.

I returned from New York City yesterday to more than forty emails. Those of you in the corporate world are probably laughing, thinking to yourselves, “Forty? That’s bush league, sister. Try coming back to two hundred!” But in my world, forty is a lot. Especially since all of them include information that is necessary and meaningful. You in corporate America get at least twenty responses that say “I’ll be there” to the email that circulated about some meeting taking place Friday morning at ten. Those, my friends, do not count in your overall total. Would it have been better for me to sit in the waiting room and respond to at least twenty of those emails? Or does it not matter? Should my clients have to wait until I return or should I be available to them twenty four/seven? I leave these weighty questions in your hands.

I know that the Southern half of Evelyn David has a Blackberry, so I’m hoping she weighs in with the plusses and minuses of PDA ownership. I do know that I will have to invest in the device that has the largest key pad because even though I do not possess overly-large hands, I can’t imagine that I’ll be able to write messages with any kind of ease unless the keys on the keypad approach the size of those on my laptop. I know the keys are larger than those of my cell phone, but exactly how large do they need to be? All I know is that it took me ten minutes to text my daughter these two words, “not sure,” in response to her message to me, “What time will you be home?” I do not have that kind of time, people. And if you need an immediate answer from me on an important issue, do not—I repeat, do not—text me. It will be hours before I’m able to type a comprehensible reply.

I await your wise counsel. To Blackberry or not—that is the question.

Maggie Barbieri


  1. Leap into the 21st Century!!!! I can HOOK YOU UP!!!! From you-know-who....

  2. I love love love my BlackBerry Pearl. I've had it two years - actually got it a week before my first trip to Love Is Murder in Chicago. I still have a photo on it of the woman sho purchased Evelyn David's first copy of Murder Off the Books. I don't text - I use it to read my emails - the screen is beautiful (you can have your home and business emails forwarded to it) and then I use the phone part to call people back regarding important emails. I can type three or four word emails in reply if necessary but the keyboard is not great for people who started out typing on a regular typewriter keyboard.The newer blackberries look great but I'm very happy with my Pearl. It goes everywhere with me.

    aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

  3. I love my Blackberry too. I do use the phone once in a blue moon (my Blackberry happens to be blue), but I use the heck out of the email part.

    It's great because I can eliminate emails even from my computer at home, or just from the device. Keeps me from coming home to 400 emails when I'm gone and I can also respond to important emails.

    I've gone a step farther though, I just purchased a mini laptop that's wireless. Figured I'd need it to keep up with blogging etc. when I'm gone.


  4. I say skip it. Maybe. But, get a coffee and sit down because I’m going to rant!

    Our society and our mind-set is that we latch onto any new tech like a bunch of sheep and most of the use of that tech is generated by the obligation and marketing to create a use for it! We've had many studies that say that despite the new tech for "productivity", we don't don’t actually accomplish more than we used to. We drink a lot of Kool-Aid: do our houses really reek so badly that we need Fabreze to “be fresh and clean”? Are we any smellier than we used to be? Doesn’t just simple cleaning up and occasionally opening a few windows work well enough? No? How do we know we need to use Fabreze? What tipped us off that we need Lysol wipes because we’re so riddled with germs? Or, that we need to take an anti-anxiety drug because we happen to be of a shy personality? We know because someone is selling it to us and we’re too weak to think critically and push back a little. Any of these inventions can be very good when used intelligently, but “invention” isn’t stopping at the gadget, itself.

    Another example of this is those damn GPS systems people suddenly find they can't drive anywhere without! This is probably because OnStar tells us that we and our children will DIE if we have a car accident without benefit of (buying) their system. On the one hand, those are BRILLIANT for rental/vacation cars in cities you don't know well. They’re great for people who really drive to unfamiliar locales for work (truckers, sales reps, etc.). But, for just driving into the next suburb to go to a Super Bowl party? Just suck it up and glance at a map and THINK of what you’re doing as you drive.

    We're letting our brains become dull and commerce loves it. I used to laugh when we were told this about the advent of pocket calculators, but find me five college students who can do fractions on the fly and I'll give you one fifth of $100! At least 40% of them would say I owe you $25.

    Look, I know that much of what I’m railing against is helpful in emergencies, and I understand the value there. But, we’re also, within that construct, buying into the idea that we can disaster-proof being alive and human when we really can’t. Sure, it’s good to have an ambulance auto-magically come when you get into a car accident and that specific situation may save your life, but these bad things will still happen no matter how much thinking about it scares us into taking precautions that just won’t always help.

    And, quite frankly, it might be good for kids, spouses, friends, colleagues to once in a while have to pull themselves together without benefit of you/me/their BFF, etc.

    I think lots of these "look no farther than right in front of you" toys are not good for us. They are turning a younger generation into zombies with puffy red eyes from staring at tiny screens all day. And, they are keeping people from people. Our levels of actual human interplay are dropping like a cell tower signal in a bank vault. I see people who can’t grocery shop without having a Blue Tooth phone headset in one ear and an iPod in the other. Great. We’ve got a world where people think Facebook promotes friendship and every child needs a DVD screen in front of him for the thirty minute ride to Aunt Vicky’s house, but people are lonelier than ever and about as unhappy as always.

    The Stiletto Gang blog is not like this, but I see MANY blogs with people essentially writing (often poorly) letters on personal topics to friends they either don’t have or don’t talk to. The illusion is that you’re “connected” or “saying something” when really you’re still alone and saying nothing, just tapping at a key-board, desperate to be “heard” by . . . no one. I really believe things like this are due to our over-reliance on technology. Not our reliance on it—that might be good sometimes—but our OVER-reliance.

    If you can use a Blackberry without getting used by it, then more power to you. But, if you start down the road of being "always connected and available", I really think you're kidding yourself and that you end up disconnected from and unavailable to the world. Look at Twitter: again, could be a handy tool for, say, a campus to use to notify students that the physics bldg is shut down for the day due to a water main break. But, used poorly, its simply some fool’s way of telling dozens of people—who agree to receive the msg!—that “hey, I’m doing my laundry”. Good to know. Oh, no wait. I mean it’s perfectly meaningless to me.

    Sorry for the rant, but thanks for allowing me the space.

  5. Blackberries...yum! I just got some at the grocery store, and I can't wait to eat 'em. Oh, wait, wrong Blackberry, huh? I am sooo low tech. ;-)


    P.S. Seriously, Maggie, my advice is to do whatever's going to make you feel less stressed.