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Time to Stop Messaging and Start Eating!

BlackBerry users are seething at the continuing failures of their devices to function. More than a mere glitch, this one has gone on for days – that’s forever in the technology age.

Feelings were intensified with a bland statement on 13 October from the embattled company claiming they are now operating ‘with a significant improvement’ after a ‘message backlog’ for most of the week.

It said, in what passes for an apology in contemporary business circles: ‘We continue to monitor the situation to ensure ongoing stability. Thank you for your patience’. A prime example of a phrase calculated to destroy any last shreds of patience their customers may still have.

Ronan Shields, writing on New Media Age reported that manufacturer RIM had put the service disruption down to ‘a server failure in the UK’. They further claimed this caused a ‘message backlog’ which created the disruption.

That paucity of detail will cost them dear, as social networks are red-hot with critical comments and negative publicity. Renaming their personal hardware as ‘CrackBerry’ is the mildest label from angry users.

Hackers Not to Blame?

Inability to solve the problem regardless of cause will cost even more in terms of long-term credibility of the entire company. They denied it was down to hackers breaching security; it’s possible that may have reassured a handful of concerned people.

The worrying thing is that the possibility of security failure is as great as fears of technology failure. The two issues together are what are revealing about the world’s growing dependence on such gadgetry.

Add to those two aspects the fact that in the age of information, companies are rarely forthcoming with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and cover-ups are the instinctive default positions for most people (including politicians), and we further see that our society is approaching a crossroads.

Do we go on allowing ourselves to become hooked on digital, or do we try to retain some semblance of human sense/moderation and foresight?

Always ON Culture

The question was addressed by BlackBerry owner Iain Anderson, on the Huffington Post, as his angry calls to his network provider ‘gave way to the serenity of not having to answer emails from across the globe’ by the first evening.

He discussed how his life has switched in the past few years to ‘always ON’. For him, no more emotionally nourishing breaks from work in evenings, weekends and holidays. He signed up for the ‘always on’ culture, which he said contributed to ‘the wider lack of perspective and judgments’ about life and world problems that people would prefer.

That is, prefer if most can remember how it used to be before ‘permanently connected’ was our natural state. Time is precious, time to talk to people, talk and listen. Finish questions, leisurely meals with people, and not keep checking for messages. He called this the time ‘to recapture the need for human rather than digital engagement’.

But when the systems are restored, what will we all do? Catch up the backlog, of course. Till the next system failure! Or power cut. Or a major company/provider goes bust. Then we’ll have a brief time to take stock once again.


New Media Age, Ronan Shields, BlackBerry moves to ease unrest as blackout lags on, 13 October 2011.
Huffington Post, Iain Anderson, The Wider Implications of the BlackBerry Outage, 13 October 2011.

Photo: Infrogmation.