Communication Breakdown

2 02 2011

They say that competition is a good thing. As a free-market advocate, I am inclined to believe it. But sometimes too much of a good thing can bring a system to its knees.

Like communication.

My childhood communication processing was marked by about a half-dozen TV stations, an occasional phone call, deliveries from the mailman, and whatever my parents and brother had to say. While there were certainly competing interests, it was manageable.

Today, though, the number of voices in the wilderness is out of control. I’ve got a few hundred satellite stations at my disposal. Six email accounts. Non-stop text messages. And enough social media to keep my staff busy for months.

“If I only had a staff…” he muses.

Whereas our lives were indeed much easier to control 40 and 50 years ago, trying to stay on top of it all today is a herculean task. Welcome to the Age of Information Overload.

It’s almost comical to watch a bunch of social media professionals (or is it addicts?) walk out of a long meeting. Like smokers getting the shakes as they await that first puff of nicotine sustenance, we nervously juggle our phone in the hallway as we ponder which account or app to check first. After all, to sit in a meeting these days is to hear a cacophony of random buzzes as silenced phones discreetly inform us of yet another incoming message. In an hour a solid 60 or more messages can land in our inbox.

Heck, a roomful of social media’s heavy hitters could require its own cell phone tower.

But I digress.

The point is this: We live in a very complex world of always-on communications, be it family, friends, colleagues, students, you name it. Toss in all of the advertisers beckoning and wooing us with their come-hither taglines, and suddenly you realize we have become the mythical one-armed paper hanger. With an itch.

We just cannot keep up, much less cope.

The fact is, we have all become heavy hitters in the communications game. It’s not just the ones who do it for a living (or wish they could). Anyone with a smartphone has become a 3-pack-a-day junkie. And like any old alcoholic will tell you, we know where we will get our next drink.

I am also sad to say that I, along with many others, admit to having panic attacks over being away from our devices for too long. It’s not so much the separation as it is the fear of how many messages we’ll have waiting for us.

I hear that admitting you have a problem is a necessary first step. OK. So there.

At least I don’t sleep with my phone anymore. I’m trying. Really. But sometimes it just seems like the competition is winning.

Dr “Please Take A Number” Gerlich

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