Is Was So Then

A few weeks ago Facebook removed the mandatory “is” from a person’s profile status; and while I, like many, welcomed the change I’m here to say, is was so then. Over the past two decades, our interconnected digital lives have been a direct assault on the notion of is. I’m glad today’s tech darling has finally got with the program.

So much of the web, and certainly email, is a store and retrieve medium. I write and send an email but as the sender I don’t have any idea when you might read it, what mood you’ll been and if the environment you’re reading it is predisposed to your understanding it. And when it comes to website content one has no idea when or where something will get read. Is had a tense; it was now. Not an hour ago, not yesterday, it was now. Using present-tense language on the web implies a sense of immediacy that simply doesn’t really exist. Even on Facebook my status updates are sporadic and driven more by events in my life than the immediacy of it.

Sometime ago I read a doctoral dissertation exploring the cultural impact of mobile telephony. One of the observations that has stuck with me is the fact that through mobile telephony, our work and home life have even fewer boundaries. Each of us can be reached by coworkers during off-hours like our personal friends and family can reach us while at work. The doctoral candidate went so far as to discuss that our current separation of work and home life was largely a twentieth century phenomenon brought on by the rise of the factory worker. Furthermore, the cultural shift which were were now experiencing could, if we were to allow it, return us to a lifestyle where the lines of personal and work time weren’t so quite as discrete.

Short messaging services like text on mobile phones and instant on personal computers further help to blur these lines. If you are sitting at your desk at work and are instant messaging with a friend are you still working? Likewise if you’re talking to a work colleague on your mobile on the way home from work are you still working? I think most businesses have welcomed the intrusion of technology into our personal lives as a way to keep us accessible; but are completely unprepared to deal with the reality of a two-way street.

So farewell to is. Technology had given us the allusion of is; it was not so. I’m looking forward to the loves, hates, needs, wants, has, should’s and will’s. Is was so then.