I was in the parking lot of the office building, moments away from walking in to a board meeting and couldn’t find the papers anywhere. I had more will to go to in without the agenda than to retrace my steps across town and back, so I grabbed my Kindle, all the while hoping the building had unencumbered Wi-Fi.
I entered a room full of people shuffling papers - they had their agendas. The only items in my hands were the tablet and my cell phone. A few seconds later, I was in my seat and connected to the internet. A minute or two after that, I had downloaded the agenda and opened a new document to take notes.
I was ready to listen and learn.
Technology Body Language
From the moment I'd walked into the room with only mobile devices in hand, I felt a little uneasy: I was the only one not using pen and paper. Usually I take these utensils with me everywhere, happily scribbling away and jotting down random notes when the mood or inspiration strikes. Other tech savvy peers have given me sideways looks for such things, as they efficiently typed away on their laptops or smart phone. There is something about the act of writing things down, though, that helps me retain the information for later use when it was needed.
Yet there I was, in the reverse situation using 21st century technology when no one else was. From the stares I was getting, I got the distinct impression that judgements about me and my technology were being passed. And not all of them were good.
I am accustomed to technology body language projecting an image of productivity and efficiency. What was my mobile device saying about me here that was so different? Unlike so many other work-life and business-related situations where technology has been, is, and will continue to be extremely important to success, it was being seen as a distraction.
This wasn't the first time that I felt technology contributed to my messages being lost in the translation. I'm sure it's not the last.
The Message Your Technology Sends
Personal beliefs color how we interpret everything, including technology and the technology of others. Some people see a smart phone or mobile device as a tool for productivity. Others see it as a way to be entertained or distracted.
While I am accustomed to being around people who believed the former, its shocking to enter environments where the latter opinion prevails.
She's a "Millennial" with a mobile device, she must be playing a game, surfing the web or worse yet, posting on Facebook! Is she Instagramming? Maybe she's typing "OMG, this meeting is teh boring" on the Twitters.
That's sad because mobile devices have become to many just as important business tools as a computer or phone. They aren't just for communicating, playing games and shopping, they're tools for creating, learning, sharing and more.
Mobile Devices vs. Paper
I have particularly become a fan of using them in any way that you could use paper, like books, magazines, meeting agendas. Using them as replacement for paper presents a variety of advantages over using a pen and paper to take notes.
- Convenience. I received the agenda for the meeting as a digital file via email, meaning I could access it by any mobile device (even if I couldn't have accessed the Wi-Fi via the Kindle, I could have looked up the agenda on my phone using my data plan). This convenience came in handy after my printed copy was ultimately forgotten on the coffee table, never used and subsequently recycled.
- Complication. If you have a digital file, use it. Often it isn't always necessarily easy for everyone to get a paper copy of a digital file, with a big reason being printer issues: It's out of ink; the person is out of paper; they don't even own a printer. Additionally, if you write notes and have to later transfer updates to the digital file, you're performing twice the work.
- Cost. Say your organization takes it upon itself to print off the documents for everyone attending every meeting. That costs ink, paper and the time it takes to ensure everything is printed, counted and collated, multiplied by however many copies you need and all the meetings you have, for as long as the company exists. Suddenly the cost of going digital doesn't sound so bad.
- Clutter. Reduce the amount of paper hanging around the office and your home. I don't even know how long that printed agenda floated around the house before it finally made it into the bin. Feel the need to have a version on file? Keep it on your mobile device, send it to your computer, upload it to the cloud or whatever other storage method you prefer.
- Conservation. Save some trees by viewing documents on mobile devices instead of printing them. But it's more than just reducing how many trees are cut down. Making paper causes additional environmental damage due to the chemicals used in the bleaching process, while dyes and inks can add up in the environment, too. There is also a cost to the energy used by constantly-running machines to make paper and print documents. Though manufacturing or powering of mobile devices isn't exactly carbon neutral, they can be used over and over and over again and sold, given away or recycled when you've upgraded or they've reached the end of their use.
Then you'll end up finding even more ways they can be useful, and they'll become nearly priceless. For example, beyond my productivity with work functions, in my house such activities as reading, browsing, shopping, cooking, blogging, exercising, traveling, writing, editing photos, drawing and, yes, gaming will never be the same.
Broadcast Loud and Clear
You use technology as a creative tool, not just a toy. You're tech-savvy and connected. You're efficient and organized. You like to keep up to date on trends and in the know about who is doing what. You don't want to be chained to your desk or tied up in inefficient processes. Your use of technology says a lot about you, own it and make sure people know about it.
Nevermind what other people think, if your technology could talk, what would it say about you?
Sara Duane-Gladden is a freelance writer in the Twin Cities area of the great state of Minnesota.