Thursday, August 12, 2010

Time is Money

Technology is amazing and frustrating at the same time. Of course computers, the Internet, e-mail, etc. make our lives easier in many respects. I remember writing college papers using carbon paper and Wite-Out because my typewriter didn’t have a correct key (at least I had an electric, not a manual), and actually cutting my first drafts into pieces and taping them together for typing because word processing wasn’t readily available; there was no cut and paste. If we weren't at home when someone called, they'd have to call back. I won my first answering machine senior year in college when I represented the University of Michigan on The Joker’s Wild’s College Tournament. (Other prizes included some cash for me and the U of M, a case of Golden Grain Macaroni & Cheese, WD-40 and a reel to reel tape player.)

On the other hand, technology also can result in de-personalizing business and personal relationships. There’s the pressure to always be connected; I don’t want to miss something requiring a response ASAP. I have my phone set to make different sounds for different e-mail addresses so I know which messages to read right away.

Figuring out how to do a new task often takes far longer than it should. We spend time registering for various sites, keeping track of passwords/changing them, backing up. For every dollar we save in postage by paying bills on line or emailing work product such as submissions to editors/agents, we spend another in software or hardware. Do we spend as much time talking to actual people as we do catching up with e-mails, texts, Twitter and Facebook?

As a voice talent, most of my auditions are now self-recorded. Many are due ASAP, others with less than 24 hours turnaround time. Though obviously recording at home saves travel time to the agent and back, it’s hard to get the best reads when directing yourself. And you don’t get any feedback as to whether your audition is in the ballpark or if you could have talked faster, slower or with more of whatever emotion. “Friendly and educational,” for example, means different things to different people. So sometimes for big auditions, I seek coaching and production assistance from people I’ve worked with, which takes travel time and/or money. Instead of getting the opinion of the agent who has actually communicated with and is familiar with the client, whoever helps is another step removed from knowing what the client really wants.

So many people communicate mostly via e-mail or text to save time, but in the process some elements of communication are lost. You don’t get to hear the other person’s tone of voice or share reactions to conversation. Many now work at home, spending all day staring at their computers and not interacting with co-workers. We miss out on camaraderie and exchange of useful information.

Sometimes we leap into new technology because it seems fun, or maybe even because everyone else is doing it. We may not realize how many hours we spend a day with it, or how often we pull out our phones when out with family/friends. Maybe every so often we should step back for a minute and consider the opportunity costs of investing in and spending so much time with technology. Maybe there are times when our time could be better spent elsewhere.

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