Many moons ago people used to talk about Work/Life Balance. You know the sort of thing: don’t work so hard that you can’t have “a life” as well. I little idea about what they actually meant in practice, but I imagine it involved having some kind of separation between work and living your life outside of work. Well I may have had something approaching that a few years ago, but that’s all changed now, because what I have now is what I like to call “Work/Life Hum”.
Now this may not be a new concept to many of you, but it made sense to me to actually call it something. I needed a phrase to describe “what just happened” as it were. Because what just happened was this.
Half way though last year I bought an iPhone. Once configured, I started doing the usual stuff: checking email, looking at the Web, etc. However, gradually it became apparent that there was no getting away from this thing.
The first problem was Twitter.
I’ve been on Twitter since November 2006. I now have over 5,600 followers, and I’m following 850. That means Twitter is both a joy and, at times, an amazing time sink (but generally a joy).
As you can see from my iPhone home screen (right) I also have tools there I regularly need. TouchType is a great app for making notes because you can turn the iPhone horizontally and type on a really good keyboard. The basics are also there, like Contacts, Maps, App Store, Calendar, SMS, Phone, Clock for alarms and Camera for impromptu pictures. Facebook I use more on the iPhone than on the Web. I also got the Night Camera app, which takes OK pictures in the low light of a bar – a common location in my journalistic trade. I also use Audio Recorder to record interviews. Xpense Tracker was a rather expensive app I bought to try and get my expenses in order – it will even take a picture of the receipt. Why are settings on the home screen? I often switch WiFi on or off to stop the iPhone connecting to a paid-for node.
The main other draws towards the Black Hole that is the iPhone are Email, Google Reader (for RSS feeds on Safari) and Yammer. The latter is used to communicate with my TechCrunch colleagues internally.
The final piece in the jigsaw is unlimited data from O2. Lord, how I love it so. It means I can do almost anything, almost anywhere.
As a result of this, I realised that the “background hum” of work eminating from my always-connected iPhone was a better way of describing how I now work – and live. It means I can send an important email while I’m fetching some milk and bread from the corner shop – or read RSS feeds while waiting for a train. And I can send a Twitter while walking between my chair and the bar in the pub, or while waiting for my kids to get tired of the climbing frame in the park.
There is no more “balance” any more – as if there ever was – because what I am working on and interested in swaps from second to second as I use my iPhone. The Internet is now an all pervasive background “hum” which never goes away unless I am out of battery or out of wireless signal, which is very rare.