Behind the Scenes

How to Deal With Technology Anxiety

Technology can anchor us to our colleagues — and pull us under water.

Decades ago, I left my office in Manhattan at noon, once a blizzard started gathering strength. I stood for hours in line at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and grabbed the last seat at the back of a bus heading home to New Jersey. When we made it through the Lincoln Tunnel, we saw that dozens of cars had been stranded in the deepening snow on the incline that loops around the tunnel entrance. We were stuck for hours. And hours. I eventually made it home at 1:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, my husband, who was working at Kennedy Airport at the time, had driven home through the blizzard, panicking because he hadn’t been able to reach me on our home phone.

When we shared this story with our daughters when they were teenagers, they asked — of course — why we hadn’t just called or texted each other on our cellphones. It was hard for them to imagine that in the early 1980s, cell-phones didn’t exist, no one had a laptop, and there was no such thing as wireless.

The truth is, I have trouble remembering what it was like back then. I’m so addicted to my iPhone that I panic when it’s out of sight. And while that night all those years ago was definitely anxiety producing, I’ve found that having a cellphone and laptop as my constant companions has made me anxious in a different way, every day.

It’s because of email. The extent of my problem was made clear to me recently when I traveled home from Washington, D.C., after attending PCMA’s Visionary Awards last month. Wireless is spotty along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor on a good day, but that morning there was no connectivity whatsoever for three hours. I felt my anxiety level rise as I pictured emails piling up in my inbox, especially those “pants on fire” emails requiring my immediate attention.

Of course, that’s just plain ridiculous. I take my job very seriously, but I’m not in the business of saving lives. But all of us in the workplace — and particularly professionals in the events industry — struggle with being tethered to our electronics 24/7. Even when we’re off the clock, we’re not off our screens.

There are other work-related expectations that can be crushing and altogether unhealthy — as quite a few of the 800-plus respondents to this year’s Annual Salary Survey shared with us.

We’d like to help quell your anxiety, so when you’re checking out how much your peers are making, also be sure to read our cover story, “Is Your Job Killing You?” Just promise not to be checking your email at the same time.

 

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.