Bad manners. That is the email I got from my good friend of many years, in lieu of returning my call in anything close to the promised time. And then of course when he did finally call, it was during our family dinner when I don’t answer the phone. And the message was super garbled. And he was on his way out of town. We did not connect.
Sadly, this is not unusual for me these days. As the founder of a start-up still in the grinding phase of trying to get people to pay attention, I am getting used to being blown off, ignored or otherwise passed over (don’t get me started on good friends who haven’t made it to our website yet).
But I digress. What was interesting to me about the original email under discussion was that it was refreshing to have someone admit to something we all know in our heart of hearts to be true. Our mothers were right. From a simple etiquette/human/friend standpoint, the failure to return a call or an email is really just rude. But somehow in our cyber lunacy we have given ourselves a mulligan on this particular version of being rude, over and over again. We are busy people. If it is not directly on my flight path or immediately clear just how I personally benefit, no dice. Get in line. I’m BUSY. Besides, everyone does it. And once you realize that, it kind of lets you off the hook. Kind of a messed up version of pay it forward, where no one actually wins.
Now that I am more in the position of being the “blowee” (assuming that is really a word for the person being blown off?!?) I have started to notice something. The feeling of frenzied busyness seems to be literally everywhere. It’s not limited to the people you might expect to be super busy like a cardio thoracic surgeon, or a reporter on deadline. The crazy busy people include stay at home moms, wellness consultants, yoga teachers and high school website designers. What the heck? Sure some of it is bad choices/lack of boundaries, but surely there is something else going on.
It occurred to me that perhaps the “no boundaries” is more than just not saying “no” enough. It might in fact be another one of those gifts from our technologically advanced place. We. Are. Never. Off. It is not just doing too much, or choosing to do too much, so much as it is that anything we decide to do has been rendered boundary less by our 24/7 connectivity. When we are always potentially on, nothing is ever really done. No one is ever really out of reach. “It must be 5 pm somewhere” used to apply to a margarita, now it may as well mean I can reach someone and keep working when it suits me. How familiar is this refrain to our kids “just give me a second to return this text”?
I think we need to learn a new way to function, now that we have a new way to function. We are like little kids in a candy store who haven’t figured out that if we eat all the candy at once, we’re going to feel sick. Ditto “communicating”. We need to figure out how to use this stuff in a way that doesn’t make us feel sick. So what are you going to do differently?