All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

Be Careful What You Wish For

A lot of the work I do is bascially phone/email corporate tech support.   I get the IT managers and their assistants calling me for advice and troubleshooting on network, security, email spam, filtering, and on and on.  I’m sort of the go to guy for corporate IT managers in my little circle in Puerto Rico.

Here’s the thing, I used to get annoyed by the fact that I couldn’t get ANYONE to use email.  Email is my trouble ticket system.  It’s allows me to assign a date to the incident, make a to do list, and have a record in case my clients forget that they called me.

Here’s the problem:

Everyone wanted to call.  Everyone wanted to leave voice mail messages that said, “Give me a call.”  There was no mention of the problem, a description anything.  If they did send an email it would say something like, “I have a problem with the server.”    I would sigh, pull out my crystal ball and divine up the problem with a series of repetitive questions…  all of which we’ve been through before.  If there’s a problem with an email, instead of emailing me the bounce, error or whatever, they’d call and say that someone (top secret identity?) was having problems with their mail.  Sending? Receiving?  Was anyone else having this problem?  Was it with only a particular recipient?  Was it a network problem?  Can I see a copy of the email bounce in question?  And on and on.   Wouldn’t it just be easier for them to click forward and send me the email?  They already know what I’m going to ask.

But they didn’t, and for many moons, I felt like an automated question engine running through my script, yes, no, no yes, okay BING here’s your problem.  But recently, perhaps in the past year or two, something has changed, and I suspect it has something to do with social media and SMS.

People have stopped using the phone to make voice calls.  I’ve noticed it in personal relationships.  Talking has become passé.  People are now practiced in asynchronous communications.   We can now dispense with the “Hi, how are you, how’s your family,” salutations and pleasantries that used to bind our social network of personal interaction.  Now it’s all asynchronous and me-centered.  I have information I want to send you, here it is.  Read it when you wish, but I don’t really want to talk to you.  We post on our facebook, twitter, whatever and just throw it out there.  It requires NO interaction.  People will take that and use it for what it’s worth.  We are detached from our communications.  Everything is a discrete packet self-contained and autonomous – automated.

It’s a shame to admit it, but it makes my job easier.  I can knock things out with minimal stupidity.  Simple bug report, simple fix.  It seems social media and SMS has trained my clients to send it and forget it.   I have become an automaton, a problem solving engine dependent on rich precise input.

But is this is healthy for society at large outside of specific business contexts?  What are your thoughts?


  1. Sigg3

    We often have this discussion where I work, because all of the admin people feel that they’re ignored by our clients (researchers). Of course, people choice an ungrateful job to begin with, but to some extent they ARE right.

    I realized this one day when I had literally saved the remains of a economically Very Important Project, and I hadn’t left my office except for lunch and didn’t talk to anyone before I left. I got no thanks, no appreciation, not a damn “hello” despite that I had made sure at least a couple of them got to keep their jobs..

    And to be frank, while clients run the ship, administration makes sure the ship is seaworthy. People tend to forget that (or are uneasy to realize that it’s more cooperation and co-dependence than they are willing to admit). This is a capitalist problem, when you see clients instead of People, and services instead of Favours.

  2. Sylvia Petter

    Jim, I think it depends a lot on how things go out. Messages are templated and we know they are automatic. I try and give personal answers in the workplace when there is a reply to the initial message. Re Facebook, Twitter and co, I think it depends on whether what ever it is ignites your interest and passion, and friends do interact. Many on chat since not everyone wants to know exactly how hubby is doing after an op or somesuch. Skype has also a role to play. I think it depends on the user. Often we forget that what we are putting out there is just a fraction of what people are seeing, so much may get overlooked. But this happens in non-auto life, too, when the other is not paying attention. Maybe the automaton should surprise them. Hey, he´s alive!

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