With each new social networking tool introduced to your computer or mobile phone, it may seem like you have no time to yourself anymore. The reality is just the opposite, says Philip Bump: Social media can give others the illusion of busyness—declare your mountain climbing trip from the comfort of the sofa; email gives you the power to determine when you respond, unlike making yourself available by rushing to the phone; as online conversations are increasingly becoming synonymous with information exchange, introverts need not reveal themselves.
What’s the Big Idea?
In principle, the answering machine guaranteed that you would never miss a call, in a sense being permanently available to those calling you. In reality, it allowed people to choose when to be available, if ever, to answer their phone. It is a curious irony of our communication age that networking technology makes us unavailable rather than available. Like the answering machine, it makes us unavailable in the sense that we choose when we are available to converse, surely a desirable characteristic when everyone is connected all the time.