My son asked me the other night if life was easier and less stressful when I was a teenager than it is now? I thought about it and told him that I didn’t think life was easier, we had our own challenges, but life was…simpler. It flowed at a different pace. Without things like mobile technology and social media, life didn’t seem quite so immediate and complicated all the time.
It’s funny that he would ask me this, because lately I’ve been ruminating about how so much of “how” we do things now is designed to make things easier, more efficient, less stressful – yet often the results are the opposite. I realize what I’m about to say makes me sound dangerously close to an old cranky grandma rocking on the front porch spouting off about how things were “done in my day”…. But, as another R.W. in my life often says, hear me out:
- A few days ago, I was taking to heart the lessons I’ve learned in a ‘dangers of multi-tasking’ workshop and decided to set aside a chunk of my morning at work to focus only on catching up on a few projects and to-do’s from the previous couple of days. One by one, I tackled them and got them done and cleaned up. When I went back to my email inbox a couple of hours later, I saw that I had received 34 new emails. So much for feeling caught up. I wondered, before email, what would have happened here? Well, first of all, the requests, needs and questions would have been fewer – because in those days we didn’t expect immediate replies. We grouped our topics and questions and handled them either via phone, in person, or possibly via regular mail. We never would have considered the “stream of consciousness” communications that we seem to be mired in now. We planned ahead, and we waited. Urgency was the exception, not the rule.
- One of my girlfriends is currently job hunting. She has shared with me how the job applications are all done online. One would think that would be easy and speedy. Upload your resume and cover letter with one click, done. Oh, no, not so fast. The forms to be completed and filled out (after, of course, assigning yourself a sign-on name and password) are lengthy and time consuming. She frequently has to plug in all of the information that is on her resume, into that particular company’s online form, of course duplicating her efforts. One application she came across was for a position funded by the state, so there were lots of extra questions regarding drug use and disabilities. Some of the applications have taken her a couple of hours to complete. After which she receives a generic email indicating she was successful in submitting – but don’t call us, we’ll call you. Used to be that the longest part of the process was picking out the perfect paper on which to print our resumes, or editing our cover letters. Pop ‘em in an envelope, mail ‘em, follow up with a phone call, done. Then wait and hope. That part hasn’t changed.
- I recently attempted to help my brother by submitting an update for his health insurance. He is in the process of moving, so we needed to update his address and phone number on the annual renewal form. A form, by the way, that was sent out in paper format by US Mail. I had three options for returning it: fax, online, or US Mail. Since I have one of the few remaining dinosaur fax machines outside my office, I figured: brilliant. quick and easy. Until three tries later, I was still getting the “NG” symbol and a notice of “poor line condition.” So, the next day I opted for choice number 2: online. Similar to my friend’s experiences with her job hunt, the first step was to, you guessed it, create an account, username, and password. Got through that and was faced with yet more information that was required. Nowhere could I find an option to only update an address and phone, I would have to go through and update all of his current status, health information, doctors, etc. Not only did I not have all of that information on hand, I did not have the time to schlog through it. So, in the end, I did what I should have done in the first place, and would have done in the old days. Sent it off in the mail. Which, had I done that as option #1, it would have already reached its destination by then.
- My son will soon be celebrating his 16th birthday. He is inviting lots of friends over for a pool party. He is too old and too cool to give out or mail any written invitations. The preferred method now is via word of mouth, Snapchat, or Instagram. So, being the cool mom I pretend to be, I wanted to create a graphic file with the pertinent information on it (date, time, location – you know, the things a teen boy would likely leave out) so he could just send it off to his friends. Long story short, I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Any files I created and tried to text to him failed and would not send. (He rarely uses email — that would have been too simple). Eventually I just sent him a basic text of words, with a stock image I found online. The next morning, I had a brainstorm, went to my laptop, created the invitation the way I wanted it to look, then took a photo of it on the screen, with my iPhone, and texted it to him. Ah, success, I’m the coolest. Before he went out to catch the school bus, I told him I had resent something to him that was much better than my previous text. He said “that’s ok mom, I edited what you sent me last night and already got it out to everyone.” I’m sure it took him about 3 minutes or less to do so.
So maybe, just maybe, my frustrations over modern inefficiencies have less to do with the technology and method, and much more to do with… well, me.
If that’s the case, I better go claim my rocking chair on the front porch and start telling my stories to the wind. No technology needed. Easy.