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Blackberrying

Blackberrying

Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,
Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,
A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea
Somewhere at the end of it, heaving. Blackberries
Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes
Ebon in the hedges, fat
With blue-red juices…

Sylvia Plath

For almost all of my life if I’ve thought about blackberries – and to be honest I can’t say it’s happened that often, it’s the fruit of course that I’ve been thinking about.  But nowadays, the humble blackberry has been reincarnated and curiously capitalised as the indispensable BlackBerry.

Although you can’t mix it with apple to make the filling for a fruit pie or crumble, there are lots of good things about the BlackBerry – the ready access to your email wherever you may be, the mobile internet, being able to see your calendar at the drop of a hat etc but I find myself increasingly wondering if the gadget is making us more or less effective in doing our jobs.

We’ve all been in meetings where some people in the room aren’t actually present in any meaningful sense.  That’s because, thumbs whirring, they seen the red light flashing on their BlackBerry and they are emailing.  The compulsive BlackBerryer, willing to risk arthritic thumbs later in life, finds it increasingly difficult to take that drastic step of turning-off his or her BlackBerry.  Doing so means focusing on just one thing – this meeting or this conversation, taking place right now.

It’s a bit like channel hopping.  We convince ourselves that we are actually being more efficient because there’s no fallow time.  We can deal with a few emails while we aren’t contributing (listening) in the meeting and that will save time later.  But again, this is a problem with the BlackBerry.  It encourages us to send off instant responses just because we can.  The BlackBerry makes the situation and location where we receive the message irrelevant but as people we are still picking up these messages in a particular context and that may condition how we respond.  It can certainly affect the messages we send – all emails sent from a BlackBerry in the wee small hours should come with a health warning!

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