Defeat the Dark Side of '24/7' Devices

A recent poll I read asked people what new technology was something they hated but couldn’t do without. The number one answer was, no not a computer, but cell phones. Yes, those wonderfully convenient cell phones have become highly inconvenient. Before, one could go on vacation without worrying about being disturbed. With a cell phone one can never really get away! At some religious service someone in the congregation received a cell phone call. The preacher stopped his sermon and said, "Unless that’s Jesus calling you’d better tell them to call back later." Cell phones ring everywhere. Now even the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass isn’t excluded. How many people get a call during Mass and walk out to finish the call! And cell phones are moving toward becoming the new "Swiss Army Knife" – Internet access, e-mail, a camera, computer games, stock quotes, weather, TV shows, etc. Why not throw in a TV clicker and garage door opener?

Technology has added greatly to the daily demands being made on people’s time. And this can be true of the work place as well. Now most people have the schedule of a doctor – always on call! My sister and her husband were on vacation down here in Florida. But they still had to check in on their work e-mails and voicemails. I believe the immediate access to anyone anywhere 24/7 is burning some people out. Now it’s true that you can try to enjoy yourself during summer vacation by turning off your cell phone and not bothering with computer access points. But in the back of your mind, there is always that "What if?" question. "What if I get an important phone call, voicemail or e-mail?" And in the work place, if you don’t check these different messages by the time you get back to work a thousand messages may be waiting for you. I remember reading about the founder of a technology company who would spend his vacations in a log cabin in the woods without electricity to get away from all forms of technology. Now that is a possibility. Put on your automated e-mail and voice message, "I can’t be reached because I am in a log cabin in the woods without electricity!"

We can get into a certain addictive behavior regarding these new forms of communication. This was true of older forms as well. There are people who can’t wait to get the mail out of their mailbox. Most of the time the mailman hands it to them personally. We can’t wait. And technology is making us even more impatient. All messages have to be answered immediately – and we are expected to do this. Don’t do it and within hours or a day you will get a repeat message from the person saying, "Did you get my message?" – of course adding to your backlog of messages. Most of us have begun to loath voicemail. Some companies are now advertising that "you get to talk to a real human being!" at their customer support service department.

Now is this communication’s bombardment just my imagination? The "Royal Mail Group" in the United Kingdom publishes a "Business Seduction Guide" at royalmail.com/seduction to help combat communications anxiety. According to their research released this year one in four workers can’t bear to be away from their work desks for more than an hour for fear of missing important business communications, such as e-mails and phone calls. Worse, 13% couldn’t tear themselves away from their desks for more than 15 minutes for fear of communications building up in their absence. Now remember, we are talking about the English who are known for not easily getting "bothered" or "worried" by things. Imagine what happens to Americans? Now regarding this communication’s bombardment of the workplace, one-third of respondents said the level of this communications is intrusive during their work day – the study suggests employees are unable to focus on their day-to-day work because of this. Big offenders for unnecessary work disturbance included telephones with 48% of respondents finding these interfere with their tasks at hand, 16% pointed out face-to-face meetings and 13% cell phones. Least intrusive was text messages at 3%, printed letters at 2% and handwritten letters at 1%. This shows that the written word allows workers with the space and time to get on with more pressing tasks.

Now this study looking at what forms of communication require the quickest response time found telephone calls (both land and mobile) to be number one. This is followed by text and e-mail with 31% of respondents feeling a reply was necessary within an hour. Only letters had a majority of respondents comfortable to respond to within the day. Tim Rivett, Royal Mail’s Head of Small Business, said, "’The research highlights how in today’s age of mass communication people are constantly feeling swamped, much of it unnecessary.’"

Now if all this is true of the workplace, I guarantee it is also happening at home. A way has to be found to handle this new "Tower of Babel." I’m also sure it is effecting married and family life. Certainly an attempt can be made to control and protect the home environment. And we certainly want to protect our spiritual life leaving us some time to pray, have quiet time and even attend Holy Mass without interruptions!

This month I want to look at some Catholic financial sites.

Religious Funds at religious-funds.com has the mission of shedding light on a rather small and unique sector of the financial world – mutual funds. For the most part the fund families appearing on their site engage in a form of "socially-responsible investing" where they screen out the securities of companies that have products, services or practices which are antithetical to their religious principles.

Catholic Home Loan at catholichomeloans.com guarantees the lowest rates. Part of their profit goes to the charity of your choice. They deal with refinancing, purchases, cash-out and home equity.

For advice on family finances Catholic Answers sells "The Catholic Answers Guide to Family Finances" by Philip Lenahan at catholic.com/seminars/lenahan.asp. Philip is executive director of Catholic Answers. However, he formerly spent years with an international accounting firm and was a financial executive in a Fortune 300 company. So I think he is well qualified to help with family finances.

Some may want to look at the "Principles for USCCB Investments" as a moral guide for their own investments at usccb.org/finance/srig.htm that was put out November of last year.

Finances can be a major source of family and marital stress. The Center for Peace in the Family at peaceinthefamily.org offers an experienced Catholic professional counselor to help you sort out these problems. You can also take a marriage counseling inventory, explore their Catholic marriage and family resource page or even make a prayer request.

Brother John Raymond welcomes
e-mail at john@aplusconsultingnow.com.

He is author of Catholics on the Internet: 2000-2001,
Webmaster of www.monkofadoration.org