I’m not what you would call technologically inclined. I collect old typewriters, scribble all my appointments in a Moleskine notebook and every cellphone I buy malfunctions just a few days after the warranty expires.
But as much as I hate technology, I hate being out of the loop even more. And so, this weekend I reluctantly downloaded LiveProfile — a new instant messaging app for my BlackBerry. Do I need yet another way to host multiple conversations on my mobile? Of course not.
And, yet, it would appear that our generation’s voracious appetite for instant messaging still hasn’t been satisfied. This latest cross-platform service quickly surged to one million users in just five days after the app app launched for BlackBerry users at the end of March.
So if you were having trouble connecting with me via BBM, SMS, Gmail chat, Facebook, Skype, LinkedIn, Twitter, email and, oh yea, the actual telephone, there is now a brand new way reach me on whatever smartphone of choice you have glued to your sweaty palm.
Ironically, the more ways there are to stay in contact, the less connected I feel.
My desire to join the conversation (wherever it might be) means that quality correspondence gives way to compulsion. I routinely experience phantom vibrations (Google it) and like Pavlov’s poor canine, I start salivating at the very sight of a blinking red light.
The pressure to keep up with the rapid dialogue these technologies facilitate diminishes our ability to nurture meaningful relationships. We let cellphones become the intrusive third wheel on dinner dates and scan status updates and online photo albums instead of planning face-to-face catch-up sessions.
So, has this brave new world of mobile messaging left us entirely out of touch with reality? Maybe not.
Last week I received a handwritten letter from a long-distance friend. This small note probably took her less than 20 minutes to compose, seal, stamp and mail and yet it was infinitely more meaningful than 20 days worth of instant messaging.
I read it over no less than three times before carefully placing the pages on a pin board in my bedroom — a much more tangible keepsake holder than my virtual catalogue on pintrest.com.
I’ll preserve the letter like an ancient relic of a time gone by to remind myself that every once in a while there is real value in going offline. Because maintaining a constant stream of texts, tweets, pins and posts doesn’t really seem like networking anymore, it just seems like work.