Posted by: elightkeeper | January 4, 2011

What color is your digital palette?

Most of us who use digital communication tools are aware of the immediacy trap:  it is the perceived need to know now or the perceived need to reply right away.  It can lead to 24/7 communication availability, including personal times and vacations. Further, when work communications are mixed in with personal communications, it can be challenging to view them separately or with thoughtful priority. Personal lives can take on shades of work and vice versa.  Before long,  it is hard to tell them apart. The good old days of leaving work at the office are long gone.  So is the old definition of office, for that matter. But this doesn’t mean that all aspects of our lives must run together. 

To draw on a simple lesson from art class in school, if we mix all of our colors together without attention, we get a horrid shade of mucky brown. All the contributing colors vanish into the blend and are impossible to recognize. For me, managing digital communications is similar to discovering how to mix colors as well as how to keep colors distinct. One can learn to keep the balance between real and digital, as well as a balance between work and personal, by learning how to manage the digital palette.

Even when we think we have our communications under control, we can’t really know until it is put to the test.  I had such an opportunity over the school holiday. Arriving at my cabin in the woods, I discovered that my Blackberry could not find network service.  I couldn’t stay connected through texting, twitter, email or my blog!

Since I have never experienced service disruption before at this pastoral location, the best course of action seemed to be one of quiet panic. I considered the options. Call Bell. Call my district tech support. Study all the settings available on my device. Adjust them randomly. Reboot the device. Walk to the corner of the road and face south, hoping for a satellite to pass overhead. I confess desperate measures were initially contemplated. Then I paused to consider the circumstances from another angle – it was divine intervention! The universe was conspiring to give me an opportunity to get off the grid for a while. I decided to accept this as a gift and not a problem.

So what did I do offline?

I went for dog walks and hikes in the frosty air. I spent facetime with the friends and family who were with me. I read a stack of books – dusty old paperbacks from used bookstores as well as the ethereal ebooks provided to me with my new Kobo ereader. I ate very well, overindulging at times like everyone else in the holiday season. (If a coffee cake falls in the forest, does anybody gain weight? I reflected on this question and other important philosophical matters.) I did yoga. I napped by a roaring fire. I slept like the dead, with no Blackberry alarm chirping at me before dawn or flashing its new message light at me throughout the day.

When I returned to the city, I felt that something had shifted. I didn’t even turn my Blackberry back on to see when or where service was restored. In fact, it sat idle until the night before school reopened. Today, I took a walk at lunch and left it behind on my desk.

What color is your digital palette? Are you a mucky brown?  Or are your primary colors strong and separate, waiting for you, the painter, to decide where and when they will be mixed and used?

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