Monday, December 21, 2009

Blackberry Blackout

(or, Bugged by Blackberries - a בדיקת תולעים pun)

Yesterday I finally sealed the deal on something I had been contemplating for quite some time.

I never wanted a Blackberry. When I first took the Toronto position and was offered a cell phone as part of the deal, I was advised by friends to make sure it was a Blackberry – and I told them I didn’t want it. The office said they would get me a Blackberry, and I said No.

I wanted to avoid the Blackberry because I am leery of becoming reliant upon handheld e-devices. I cut my teeth on floppy disks, those promising repositories of information which all-too-easily lost their data, and on easily-virused software. Ever since, I have refused to rely on cell phone address books and the like; even my daily-email lists were in text files until a couple of years ago.

Nonetheless, the upgrade from a regular phone was minimal and the office wanted to be generous and so, lo and behold, I had a Blackberry. I can’t tell you if it’s a Curve or a Tour or whatever; that’s like asking me whether my car is an EX, DX or LX. Who knows? It has four wheels (the car, not the Blackberry).

I thought I was resisting the Blackberry culture when I refused to descend into unreadable shorthand – Pls and CYL and so on, glyphs of the modern age.

I thought I was resisting the Blackberry culture when I declined to take advantage of Memopad and Calendar. (I did go for Brickbreaker in odd moments of waiting for appointments, but that’s about it.)

But slowly, slowly, the vibrating buzz became part of my consciousness, a summons with as great an urgency as a child’s cry. I started to exchange one-line emails which were truly inefficient, and often unnecessary, just because I could. I was tempted to email at red lights, as a way to use my time more actively.

Finally, I began to worry about the claim this device had on my time and my blood pressure, but I was lazy about doing anything - until the other day, when the evil device buzzed toward the end of Shacharis and I spent the next few minutes wondering who had emailed me. Time to get a grip.

So I’ve set a new policy for myself: A set email time in the mornings, a set email time at lunch, a set email time during the dinner break and another before bed. People who email me get a polite auto-reply alerting them that I am looking at ways to make my emailing more efficient (rather than say overtly, “I am restricting my time for communicating with you”…), and no longer can they expect an immediate response.

I feel good about this; I should have done this years ago.


  1. Standing and applauding. Our devices may not require being plugged in but we are so plugged in to them that pulling that plug out requires a huge effort, one that most people don't make.

  2. Don't set limits, you'll only make the rest of us crackberry addicts look bad. ;)

  3. turn it off during tfila

  4. ProfK-

    Join me.

    Problem is that carpool requires I have the latest data by the second Ashrei.

  5. I wish I could, but my income is dependent upon email. I have to respond quickly or I lose my competitive advantage.

  6. I was thinking about getting a blackberry, for the simple reason that if I'm traveling, I can check email without having to worry about everything piling up on me when I arrive at a place that has an internet connection. I also suffer from the pull to the internet, so I'm already used to setting aside specific times for email. If you can be successful at exerting similar self-control over email, then you'd probably be able to do the same with a blackberry.

  7. Joseph-
    Maybe, but the temptation is much greater.