These past few months I’ve been suffering from insomnia; scratch that, make it the past couple of years. Tracing it back, à la the Sherlock Holmes of Benedict Cumberbatch (rather than Basil Rathbone), I believe that the cause lies with my acquiring an iPhone and an iPad in very quick succession. Previously my cell phone, iPod and iPod Touch never offered me quite the full erratic sleep patterns that only seems to be bought with full, ubiquitous, internet connectivity.
Ubiquitous internet connectivity
When I was growing up it was a prerequisite that our household had to come to a standstill at 9pm, for that was when the BBC would present its daily new compendium, imaginatively titled, “The Nine O’Clock News”. From the opening theme tune, everything about the programme shouted, “stop what you’re doing this instance. This is the BBC and we’re telling you that this is very important!” And woe-betide anyone in our home who would not lend enough reverence to this programme; none of the other two channels could offer anything approaching the gravitas that was bestowed upon it. I remember a slight sense of smug superiority when I found out that this was not normal in all homes: my girlfriend’s home would grind to a halt only for “A Question of Sport”, a programme which our fact-loving, sports-hating television would resolutely fail to tune in to.
Now that we’re fully connected I can take my father’s obsession with the news to previously unscaled heights: the socio-economic impact of bicycle lanes in Amsterdam? The other night I needed to know about it… at around 4am on a Tuesday morning. I’m ashamed to say that I actually feel a twinge of disappointment if I look at my iPhone and discover that there has been no major news event in the 50 minutes that have elapsed since I last reviewed the news headlines.
Multiple virtual timezone organisations
Working for virtual organisations in multiple timezones has certainly not helped either. At any given time, there’s someone working somewhere in the world; if Europe is asleep, Australasia or North America is working. I first understood this as I was trouble-shooting a problem for an insomniac colleague, who lived in a timezone that was seven hours behind mine, when dawn had yet to break in my timezone.
Nowhere is safe
No place is safe from internet everywhere. Time was you’d never get bored when visiting the company washroom; every “trap” would have at least one newspaper left in it for the next occupant’s casual edification. The quiet rustle of newspaper turning has been replaced by the near-inaudible tap-tapping on a touch screen, save for the occasional sound event of an email arriving, or the whoosh of one leaving.
The one place that really should be sacrosanct is where I find that my mobile devices are having the greatest effect. I’ll quietly put my headphones on during the night to listen to a podcast to help me drop off, but often as not when I’ve finished listening I’ll hear the sound of my partner’s iPod’s hard drive starting up.