The two bosses stood in the corner of the office, overlooking their employees busily typing away at their computer terminals.
“I just don’t get it,” one said to the other. “We’ve had the same employees for the last 20 years and our productivity has gone down by 40 percent over that period.”
The other boss nodded knowingly.
“Yeah, I don’t get it either,” he said, waving his hand toward the industrious minions before him. “Look at them. They are always like this — busy as bees at their computers. See Sid over there. We used to have to drag him away from the water cooler, always gabbing about something, wasting time. Now, I never see him at the water cooler. He’s always at his terminal, typing like a madman. I can’t put my finger on it either.”
The bosses let out a collective sigh.
“Oh, well,” said one. “You want to catch an early lunch?”
“No, I can’t,” said the other. “I’ve got an internet trivia match in 15 minutes. Maybe tomorrow.”
Technology has certainly altered the workplace, and is changing it more by the day. When I first started this job, I didn’t have email, wasn’t hooked up to the internet, and thought Zoom was a crappy educational TV show from the 1970s. That was probably a dozen email addresses and six web service providers ago.
Currently, a lot of the workforce isn't even in an office environment due to technology. And I now have, shudder, nine email addresses.
Every morning, I check all my email, which takes roughly 30 minutes, then check out our websites and social media sites, like Facebook. The wonderful part about Facebook is I can keep in touch with old friends or acquaintances that I would never have heard from otherwise. The horrible part is I can keep in touch with old friends or acquaintances that I would never have heard from otherwise. And also lose respect for them as they spread the latest inane conspiracy theory.
A lot of my time is spent refereeing skirmishes on our newspaper Facebook pages, and trying to prevent people from getting sued, dispelling rumors and flat-out lies. For some reason, folks seem to think that if they spread lies on the internet, it's not "bearing false witness." They'll have one post with a flat-out falsehood, followed by another citing Scripture. If your point of view needs dishonesty to convince people, maybe you need to examine the validity of your point of view.
One feature of the internet I’ve found incredibly riveting, and utterly useless, is message boards. Whatever your interest, you can find a message board or website with people bantering about it.
I'm a sucker for sports message boards. Once a day, I have to visit a Georgia Bulldog message board just to see what’s going on in the Dawg Nation, who is the most hated rival of the day, or where’s the best place to get bait in the Brunswick area. And every time I visit, the same 200 people are on there — posting 40-50 times a day, at all hours.
The thing is, these people all claim to have jobs, and are at work when they are utilizing the internet. And so am I.
That brings me to my point, which I’m sure you were doubting would ever come: Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. Calculators made it easier to count. The remote control makes it easier to change the channels. The microwave made it easier to cook. The Flowbee made it easier to cut our hair. And the computer made it easier to store records, and later, communicate through the internet.
But is it saving any of our precious time? I didn’t used to spend 30 minutes a day deleting and answering email. I didn’t used to spend minutes of my workday on a message board arguing about who was the greatest UGA linebacker of all time. I didn't used to be the umpire in hourly battles between Facebook warriors.
Has the technology that brought us online made us better, or just more distracted?
Probably both. A lot.
Len Robbins is the editor of the Clinch County News.