When I have a hiatus (as I periodically do from online life, and especially something as intensive as a reflective blog such as this one), it can be due to all kinds of things. Real life nuisances take many forms: moving (sometimes transcontinental moves); frequent travel, back to back is even worse; getting bored of the Internet; someone visiting. Well, for the most part, it involves being overly mobile: I’m just not at the computer engaging with the world via Web browser, and that ends up killing my blog, Facebook activity (as though there’s a lot of that anyway), my nascent G+ activity, sometimes Twitter.
So what has destroyed my Internet life these days, outside of email and intermittent Twitter usage? It’s my phone! Being mobile kills again.
Here’s the work I do 90% of the time: teaching (which involves reading, writing, and talking), and reading/writing for my dissertation. This stuff doesn’t even use a computer.
More than half the time I don’t bring a laptop with me when I travel to and from school, or on little coffeeshop trips to work. Why? It’s because I have used my smartphone as an Internet substitute for so long that a laptop has become overkill for everything that isn’t computer-demanding work. Everything else gets done on my home desktop, and since I don’t bother to turn it on unless I need to Do Stuff.
Thus, my Blackberry has killed my blog. You may ask, how is it that you write pages-long email on that thing and can’t just write a blog post here and there? It’s much less to do with the Blackberry Web browser (which we all know sucks) and much more to do with the format itself.
Here’s the problem: a phone is great for doing one thing at a time; at best I bounce between 4 separate things. (Typically, Twitter, email, Web browsing, and weather – or substitute weather with “talking on the phone” more rarely, because I have Sprint and I can do all that stuff at the same time.)
When I’m writing things for the Internet? I have tabs open like they’re going out of style. I have different articles sitting there waiting for reference; I may be using a text editor or looking at dissertation notes; I am linking my photos from Flickr; I am posting the links to my new posts via Twitter, Facebook (which doesn’t work well on my phone), and G+ (which doesn’t work at all – it has no usable mobile site). I work in a flat and non-linear way. I wouldn’t call it multi-tasking; I would call it working. Rarely do any of us simply have one window open, doing one activity. That’s like having a blindfold on while you listen to music, and also carefully not allowing yourself food or drink, or mobility. That’s not how we live.
I’m not really specifically blaming my phone, or saying that if I had a bigger-screen, touch screen (ugh), or Android/iOS based phone that things would be different just because they are prettier and can render the Web more effectively. Actually, I wouldn’t get nearly as much writing done if I weren’t using the Blackberry – its ergonomics and keyboard are second to none. I would have even less of a Web presence if I didn’t have it with me.
But as long as I’m using a phone (or hey, if I were using a tablet down the road), the lack of true multi-tasking ability is going to prevent me from doing real work outside of constantly emailing. You might argue that with a big enough tablet, I’m basically working on my iBook. You’re right that the screen is similar, and that tablets try to be more than giant smartphones, but as long as they’re trending toward one-thing-at-a-time style usage, it’s never going to be more useful for me than a cell phone. In other words, useful for some daily communication (and so much so that I use it exclusively as my regular device for communicating), but totally inadequate for getting real work done.
Now that I remembered to charge both my laptops’ batteries and am getting back to doing lots of daily notes for work, that backlog of posts will start clearing out – but when real life interferes and I’m back on the phone, my online life will go silent again.