Connectedness: Why disconnecting would be like pulling the plug

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October 01, 2013
Point
Joan Eisenstodt

It’s nearly midnight on a day of traveling by train, having dinner with colleagues and a great deal of time spent responding to emails, researching topics for clients and programs I will present this year and next, and topics of general interest to me (what hiccups feel like and what causes them, how to use Pinterest) and playing Words with Friends.

For years people have asked me if I ever sleep. They think I spend all day and night researching, writing emails and responding to questions. In essence, 24/7 connected.

I rarely disconnect from e-devices during waking hours. When I read about those who disconnect from all their devices for more than a plane ride, I don’t understand how or why they do it. Those who say they disconnect for two or more weeks for vacation or a sabbatical – think they’re sneaking peeks when no one is looking. Sure, I have days when I want to hide from email (more than 1,200 new emails/day on three accounts), never see a tweet again for as long as I live (with broad interests, I follow 4,200 accounts), imagine not viewing Facebook , breaking the links on LinkedIn and making negative all those currently positive on Google+.

Opportunities to easily disconnect have presented themselves to me: surgeries and lengthy recoveries; all-day fully engaged training, facilitation and consulting gigs; time with friends and family or at the theatre or movies; attending conferences; and travel. I do disconnect for more than a few hours in all those circumstances although checking in on FourSquare is a great way to let others know about a play. (The day on which I am writing this, Ford’s named me “Social Media [Twitter] Fan of the Month.” You can see it at https://twitter.com/fordstheatre in photos/videos on the left side.)

The opportunities are greater now to be connected. Even on airplanes it’s easier and cheaper to be connected: Amtrak has free Wi-Fi so train rides where I’d previously stared out the windows is now time spent reading, responding to emails or playing Words with Friends.

In 1994, I first got online on AOL when few people I knew were using computers for work, let alone for human connections. I joined some interesting groups, and one was for writers. In our group was “the real Tom Clancy” (as we called him) and Harlan Coben whose screen name was Bolitar, the character in his first series of books. Tom was famous; Harlan Coben was not yet. In the same group, I met a neat man from California who became my husband.

If it not for being connected, I’d not have reached out to Guy Kawasaki after reading "The Macintosh Way" or gotten to know him and been asked to read the galleys for "How to Drive Your Competition Crazy. "

In 1999, I was the moderator for the first meetings/hospitality industry listserv, the MIMList, that grew to more than 13,000 participants. Now there are many industry discussion groups; then it was the first and only and a place to get instant answers to problems like what to negotiate, find references for a particular hotel or other vendor, or find support when anyone felt frustrations with work.

See why I am hooked? I see all the connections as pure learning and teaching. I don’t want to disconnect.
 
Why? Here is my list in no particular order:
1. Blame it on my strengths (from the StrengthsFinders inventory). My No. 1 strength is connectedness.

2. As a life-long learner, connecting to so much information is like having a million classes available every minute.

3. Learning through connections offers more opportunities to provide better, broader and more insight to clients students I teach in face to face classes and virtual groups.

4. I am genetically predisposed to working all the time. Blame the Eisenstodt and Levinson genes.

5. I am self-employed without an assistant. There’s no one to respond if I don’t and the next great gig offer may be in today’s email.

6. When I have disconnected for a day of travel or a day of surgery, or to go to the theatre or to read books, the amount of email piled up is so staggering that the stress is not worth the disconnection.

7. My connectedness helps others connect and personal and professional relationships are formed which lead to all kinds of great ventures.

8. My Myers-Briggs "I"ntrovert is happy communicating virtually rather than in a big crowd of people or even by phone.

Disconnect if it’s your need or style, or because someone told you it’s good for you. For me, disconnecting would be like pulling the plug, the lifeline. It would mean I’d have fewer opportunities to learn and help others learn.  And that, for me, would be like the end of life.

Follow Joan on Twitter  @joaneisenstodt and @meetingsfocus.

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