The Internet in general, and social networking in particular, is going to fuel the next several election cycles and shape our every day experiences with our friends, relatives and coworkers. I believed this when I was only using my MacBook Pro to experience these tools. On Wednesday, my life changed when my new baby was brought into this world. Just the perfect size to fit in my hand, my BlackBerry Curve 8320 has already transformed my social networking experience.
The concept of constant communication never meant anything until I turned on my BlackBerry. I used to pull my laptop out several times a day to check e-mail, Facebook notifications, tweets and blogs. Now, that enchanting red light lets me know that somewhere in the world, something is happening (what a revelation!).
Twitter, my favorite social networking utility, is far more effective when used on a PDA. Twitter is about short comments, thoughts, analysis, and links to more information. The sheer volume of information coming at you and its various levels of quality are mind-numbing, but much more so when you catch up every couple of hours. Now, I watch the tweets as they are twittered (ha!) and can respond in real time, making Twitter a center of conversation, not just a bulletin board.
Facebook is all new. I find that I am able to communicate with more people more often with my BlackBerry. I can comment on more photos, write on more walls, send more messages, and update my status more now that I have access all the time.
Of course, the master BlackBerry function is e-mail, which is flawless. Enough said.
Now, I have to debate the merits of constant communication. A friend of mine told me this weekend that it takes the human brain about five minutes to focus on any one task (writing a paper, for example). If we are interrupted (by, say, a blinking red light notifying us of an e-mail to which me must immediately respond) then it takes five full minutes to completely refocus on the original task.
Since I am still in the romance phase with my BlackBerry, I want to be around it all the time. I do understand, though, that soon (probably after it gets its first scratch) I will have to turn it off completely during class and while working on papers and homework. Having a BlackBerry is already making me more productive because I can communicate faster, but it may have a negative effect on productivity if I cannot complete my work because of constant distractions. The same device that can make you a better student, friend, and co-worker can also make you worse at those roles if you abuse the real privilege that is constant communication.