Must we all be slaves to our phones?

Global Times - Weekend - - VIEW POINT - By Wendy Min The author is a free­lance writer. She was born in China, raised in Aus­tralia, ed­u­cated in China, Aus­tralia and France. opin­ion@ glob­al­times.com. cn

Ire­mem­ber the joy that went through my mind when I first cre­ated my email and made my first post on mys­pace. How the on­line land­scape has changed! Now for­get about writ­ing let­ters or mak­ing a call, apps will do. For­get about keep­ing our lives to our­selves, one post al­lows your friends ac­cess to what you have seen, done and ex­pe­ri­enced. Tech­nol­ogy has helped me track down long-lost friends and stay con­nected with the out­side world. How­ever, I lament not just the death of let­ter writ­ing or face-to-face con­ver­sa­tions, but also the grasp that I once had over my per­sonal life. My in­ner space, a lit­tle bub­ble, does not wish to re­main on­line.

We no longer have con­trol or the right to re­main off­line. I’m not say­ing that I refuse to work or re­spond out­side of work hours since a work-life bal­ance is ridicu­lously hard to main­tain. How­ever, what I op­pose is any work cul­ture that cred­its those that are seem­ingly pro­duc­tive or in this case: al­ways on­line.

Never mind it’s 11 pm, once that red dot ap­pears in your WeChat or some­thing tar­gets @ you in a WeChat group, you have to switch back on. Pro­duc­tiv­ity is not mea­sured by how re­spon­sive some­one is on­line or whether he or she has posted at 1 am on a Satur­day “Yes I’m still at my com­pany – work­ing.” And for some­one who val­ues travel and hol­i­days, what is worse is that even when you go on hol­i­days to re­lax and tem­porar­ily lead an­other life, you are still con­stantly has­sled on­line. When you do not re­ply, you feel guilty that you have not done enough de­spite it be­ing your hol­i­day. When you sleep early to main­tain a func­tion­ing brain so you can fend off stress­ful sit­u­a­tions the next day, you get seen as per­haps irresponsible for fail­ing to be on­line or on WeChat or an­swer an email.

In the end, I ques­tion how pro­duc­tive work hours re­ally are and whether it is ben­e­fi­cial to have on­line work take over when you go home. Most im­por­tantly, how lit­tle value oth­ers place on your own per­sonal space or time and the ex­pla­na­tions you feel you need to give.

China, like very much the rest of the world, is chang­ing at a break­neck speed. Peo­ple work hard, of­ten too hard. Peo­ple are on­line and ex­pect to stay con­nected even though in order for em­ploy­ees to per­form bet­ter, they need undis­turbed time alone and apart. Our phone is no longer just a tool or some- thing that we con­trol, but a ne­ces­sity that con­trols us and gives us no room to truly be alone, at peace, off­line.

A walk in na­ture, trav­el­ing to a for­eign city, hav­ing tea with one­self, even nap­ping: These sim­ple yet plea­sur­able ac­tiv­i­ties, as far away from our phone as pos­si­ble, give us that much needed recharge to keep on work­ing.

One needs to be wise when se­lect­ing to re­main on­line and be re­spon­sive to work. Surely, for a few weeks a year, we are all en­ti­tled to some off­line, dis­con­nected time.

A walk in na­ture, trav­el­ing to a for­eign city, hav­ing tea with one­self, even nap­ping: These sim­ple yet plea­sur­able ac­tiv­i­ties, as far away from our phone as pos­si­ble, give us that much needed recharge to keep on work­ing.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Liu Rui/GT

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