I’m old enough to remember the days when we didn’t worry so much about being “off line,” “out of pocket” or “off the grid” for awhile. The days when I didn’t have six or seven email Inboxes (other than work) to sort through…I perhaps only had one. And when I first started using email I didn’t worry about whether I could check it anytime, anywhere on a handheld device. I did my work in my office, not in a line at the grocery store, at 3am in an airport terminal or sitting in a restaurant.

I’ve always loved technology, but also loved separating it from the rest of my life. Didn’t matter that the beach house on the coast had little to no cell phone coverage – that wasn’t what the trip was about. Didn’t matter it had zero internet connectivity inside – no broadband or DSL. The beach house was a reminder to Slow Down and Disconnect from the rest of the world. When I left the office and drove to my apartment on my daily work commute home I left work behind. And when I took a 10-day vacation in the Caribbean in the height of a rocky technology deployment, nothing felt better than jumping off the stern of a sailboat into the warm waters off St. Kitts. That exact moment was “cleansing” in so many ways!

Over time, it became more annoying when I couldn’t be connected whenever or wherever I wanted to be. In the late 1990s my job required me to have remote access to corporate email (and a pager), so I got in the habit of reading work email at home as one of the first things I did in the morning and the last thing I did at night.

Add Facebook and Twitter into the mix a decade later and suddenly I was addicted, somewhat. I loved getting back in touch with high school and college friends and seeing pictures of them, their kids and keeping up with what they were doing…whenever I wanted to. My cousin’s daughter took her first steps recently, and I knew this within minutes of it happening thanks to Facebook. A good friend got an adorable new puppy. Another friend in Australia ran her first marathon. These are all things I never would have known about, at least not instantaneously, just a few years ago!

When was the last time you received a snail mail, handwritten letter? And not just a nice thank you card or “bread and butter” note?
My friend J and I met for brunch last weekend and spent a wonderful Sunday lingering over omelettes, pancakes and lots of coffee. Then, we wandered through the little shops nearby, poking around. Down in the basement of an old, restored home which is now an antique store we found a collection of postcards in a wicker basket from the early 1900s, well-preserved in clear plastic sleeves. I literally got swept away reading these postcards, admiring the pen and ink penmanship. One postcard was simply addressed by hand to “Mrs. John Smith, Fargo, North Dakota,” and I’m sure easily made its way to her house just like that…for a penny. And I bet the mail carrier knew Mrs. Smith and all his other stops too. There were so many birthday postcards too – even some in French. “…and so I wish you, my dear Sister, Many Happy Returns of the day.” Wow. Another postcard talked about a mother’s worry a package delivery wouldn’t arrive safely due to “all those men working on the house.” It’s almost eerie and intrusive reading personal thoughts like this nearly 100 years after they were written, the sender and recipient long gone by now.

I have to admit that job hunting is a heck of a lot easier being connected – things move fast! When I finished school in the late 1980s we were still applying for jobs via snail mail, over the phone, or maybe fax if we were lucky. If you wanted to find out more about a company you had to look in the LIBRARY, as the internet did not exist.

Nowadays, there’s no excuse for not knowing something about just about anything, thanks to Google, Bing or other online searching. I admit I don’t send snail mail thank you letters after interviews any longer – I just do them by email, but in the same tone as a handwritten letter would be. Things just move fast, and my letter wouldn’t reach the recruiter’s or hiring manager’s desk until a good 3 days after I sent it, even if they were in the same town. And who knows how often they’d check their mailslot?

I just started a new job a couple weeks ago and while I really like it, I was shocked how locked down the environment is. I have zero cell phone coverage in the building. And, many external websites are blocked as well. No instant messaging access either, except for our Office Communicator, which is limited to internal work contacts only. All of this means I can’t check my personal email or pop onto Facebook and Twitter, even on my lunch hour! And I can’t access anything on my cell phone either! I can when I step outside, but when the weather’s turning cold and rainy that isn’t so practical.

And, I have to admit, it was a little frustrating at first! But, I’m slowly getting used to it now.
After all, I made it through over 40 years of life without Facebook and Twitter.