Time flies, but are we having fun?


Time flies, but are we having fun?

I read recently that the Feds are considering dropping the requirement that businesses report their status (earnings, etc) quarterly. This request was made by some of the most successful firms in the land. It seems they are spending small (and in some cases large) fortunes simply preparing reports. The end result it seems is to affect stock fluctuations and enriching wall street traders but little else. Corporate managers are distracted by these reports and cannot see the long term.

That set off an entire thought chain (is that like “thought leader”) about the speed of our lives and whether we really benefit from the bombardment of information, communication, and the like or whether it is detrimental to the quality of the worlds we live in.

We have trained ourselves that we MUST respond instantly to emails. We have set expectations that if we don’t have an instant response (even if it’s just an “l’ll get back to you later”) we are being ignored and begin to take offense. The fact that the person may be in the bathroom or careening at 70mph down the 405 (you know what I mean) is immaterial. They didn’t respond. There must be something wrong. Maybe they are dissing me. Maybe I should take offense. Hmmmmm.

This is absurd.

I have also been musing about “fake news.” Although I am cynical about it, I will give the devil its due. I will assume that most “fake news” is “mistaken news.” That is in the rush to get the news to those who crave it, reporters and their ilk don’t take the time to check their facts, ensure they aren’t being played by their sources, and forget the rules we used to play by. That is, a story didn’t run until it had been verified by two independent sources. If you didn’t have those, there was no story. In our quest to bring the news to the consumers, in our desire to use all the tools at our disposal (smart phones, internet, Twitter, and the rest) we forget that we need quality as well as speed.

That’s why, by the way, I don’t watch TV news. I know that newspapers can be biased, but at least there is a chance that some editor, somewhere, had a look at the story before it ran.

Isn’t a thoughtful essay more important and provocative than an instant 144+ character rant?

As Michael Walsh said in over at PJM:

Indeed, it’s not just business that needs a respite from the increasing pace of infinitesimal events — it’s all of us.  Are we really better off by having our days sorted into seconds and even microseconds? Is it really vital to have instantaneous communication with the outside world? Are not some things better to be said at leisure, rather than repented of in haste? Can anything worthwhile or lasting be created in a Wall Street nano-second? Or can only often-irreversible damage be done?

This all sounds like an old coot grumbling about the fact that his VCR still flashed 12:00 and he can’t get his phone to stop ringing after he goes to bed, but I wonder if technology is driving us and not the other way around.

If someone got sick at 3 AM and was taken to the hospital, the phone call could go to voicemail and then picked up three hours later. Your knowing about it at 3 would make no difference to anyone and at 6 you would be better prepared to deal with the issue. (We know when those close to us are ill and when we might expect bad (or good) news, so in those cases leave the phone on.)

So, turn off your phone when you sleep. You won’t get those “Whatapp” calls at 2 am from some time zone challenged idiot in Europe.

Instantaneous responses to email often contain “fake news.” So why not respond every two or three hours. For goodness sakes. If something is more important than that, they can pick up the phone and call you. Plus you will ‘train’ your correspondents not to expect that kind of response.

Yes this is true of customers, too. If you stop what you are doing to respond every time you get an email, you may appear to give great service, but is it possible to reduce the service to whatever you were working on to give great service to someone at the other end of an email?

Its like standing at a check out desk and having the clerk stop what they were doing with you to respond to a telephone call from some unknown person on the other end of the line. The phone is more important than the person standing in front of you.

Do we read any more? It seems that we spend hundreds of hours a month in front of some kind of display (phone, tv, ipad) and let the entertainment sort of wash over us. At least when we read our brain is somewhat engaged.

We are frustrated when the flight from London to LA is one hour late, cursing everyone involved. Did it occur to us that we were having breakfast in the UK and Dinner in California on the same day? We just assume such things are routine and when there is any hiccup…well you know.

Do we need to be in such a hurry? Would the quality of our lives exceed the quantity if we simply slowed the process down just a bit?

You know the answer.



Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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