Off-Topic: Societus Interruptus

My wife hadn’t seen the first season of Mad Men, so we went to On Demand and loaded up Season 1, Episode 1. I saw something in that episode that you would never see in today’s business world.

No, it wasn’t the incessant cigarette smoking. Nor was it the blatant sexual harassment.

Instead, it was Don Draper closing the door to his office, laying down on his couch, and taking a nap. With nobody interrupting him.

That’s downright mind-boggling in today’s business world.

In the course of an email exchange with a friend recently, we bemoaned the seeming fact that so few managers think their way out of problems. As I thought about that some more, I realized that (for many) it’s not because they’re not able — it’s because they don’t have time.

Today’s managers face a never ending series of interruptions during the course of a day that just don’t allow them the time to sit and think. And worse, even if they did have time to do that, then either: 1) someone is bound to think they’re goofing off, or 2) they’ll feel uncomfortable because they’re not used to just sitting and thinking.

Personally, I’m very fortunate. I have a job that gives me time to think (in fact, it kinds of requires me to think). I couldn’t have it any other way — I left a higher paying job where I didn’t have time to think for this one.

It’s not that I’m not interrupted by things. I’m interrupted by plenty of things. But I’m very conscious about what I let interrupt me. Perhaps oddly, one of the things I let interrupt me are Twitter tweets. When a tweet pops up I take a look. And that’s why I’m picky about who I follow and agree to let follow me.

Generally, I’m more than happy to interrupt my train of thought to read what a Twitter buddy is thinking about, dealing with, enjoying, or frustrated about at that given moment. I don’t mind those interruptions at all.

But tweets that tell me what someone is eating, or that they’ve just arrived at their hotel/flight/work, or that they’ve just posted a new blog post (which I’ll find out about any way), are simply not interruptions worth my attention. They’re annoying, but I’ve endured them.

Until now.

Something has come along to shake me from my silent suffering. That something is called 12 Seconds.

So let me get this straight. When you tweet, you want me to stop what I’m doing to read your tweet. But when your tweet is nothing but a link to a 12 Second video, you’re asking me to read the tweet, click on the link, and then watch a video.

These videos may be nothing more than you telling me what you ate for breakfast. I don’t know. I’ve only watched one of them so far (it was McAlpine’s “I know who the CU Skeptic is” and I only watched it because I suspected that he would let time run out without mentioning the Skeptic’s name — and I was right).

You might dismiss all of this as just the grumbling of Mr. Cranky. Fair enough.

But I’m really trying to subtly and gently (which is really hard for me) make a bigger point.

In today’s business world, we all face one interruption after another. If you want your interruption to be noticed, then it has to have some value for its intended audience. Whether it’s a tweet, email, phone call, or a 12 Seconds video. This is especially true of the emerging social networking avenues. As new communication channels, there’s a sense of novelty to being able to “write on someone’s wall.” But the novelty will wear off real quick if these communiques are mindless expressions.

If, however, you still feel the need to tweet your breakfast, fine, I can live with that. Just as long as I don’t have to spend 12 seconds watching you eat it.

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9 thoughts on “Off-Topic: Societus Interruptus

  1. Ron, the older I get the more selective I am about how I spend my time. Recently, I’ve been reading Garr Reynolds book “Presentation Zen”. It’s been helpful on a number of levels but one is Reynolds’ emphasis on the importance of reflection and time away from the computer and the keyboard. He stresses that quiet time is essential in preparing for a presentation (and I’ll add most other intellectual pursuits like writing and being productive in our work). Much of what is social media can be a distraction from reflection. However, I know you agree that the opportunities that social media afford for interaction with so many smart, interesting people are why participation in sites like Twitter have a place in our day. I asked CU Warrior for an invitation to 12 seconds. I’m always game to try something new. In fact, I find it fun. I agree with you, though, I can’t see its use for me. Maybe it’s because I hate how I look on a Webcam and even 12 seconds is too long.

  2. “Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.” — Will Rogers

  3. I received a 12 second invite and I’ve been stressed ever since wondering what I could record that was worthy, when I’d have time to download to laptop, upload to web, think of clever title, tweet said clever title….

    Ron, you’ve just helped me lessen my stress! Thanks!

  4. @rshevlin I’m drinking a Pepsi and listening to the Smashing Pumpkins. 12seconds to follow… 🙂 j/k

    I’ve recently found myself becoming more and more distracted. Being “connected” and fulfilling your offline duties is a tough balancing act. Unfortunately, that often leads to a dissatisfactory performance in both lights.

  5. We crave immediacy. I find this craving contributes to most of my daily interruptions. Why don’t I just use the RSS feed of twitter? Immediacy. Why did I stop in the middle of this comment to go checkout the new lolzies and comment on it? Immediacy.

    When I remember that my craving for immediacy, not a system or an individual, is the actual cause of my interruptions, only then can I move towards a solution. Remarkably, I’ve found controlling my own desires much easier than controlling the actions of others. 🙂

  6. Ron you bring up some excellent points. I promise I will not use 12 seconds to show you my cereal choice of the morning.
    Is 12 seconds going to last? Don’t know but for me when I need a break watching those select 12 second videos is nice. McAlpine trying to get an aisle seat, Brent with his pipe, etc. These are creative people and their expressions are unique and entertaining.

    I used to think that anything that broke my concentration was an interruption and that there was a means of controlling them. Wrong. Life and time aren’t necessarily in a line. They are sometimes in a circle. Or they may be something completely different. The important thing for me is that I only have this moment in time to exist. Where it is and what it is I do or think is the challenge. And on occasion I will take that nap for 10 minutes in the afternoon when my eyelids tell me. The ability to share, write, and see all of these extremely interesting and intelligent people in a variety of formats, that is like icing on the cake.

  7. Thanks for your comments, all. Let me clarify (or restate) something: To me, Twitter “interruptions” are welcome distractions. I look forward to seeing them. Perhaps that’s why I’m sometimes disappointed by them — “Just checked into hotel” is a letdown of a tweet.

    Thinking about this post some more, I’m painfully aware how self-centered it is. It’s what *I* like and dislike about a tweet.

    As I wonder why, though, someone takes the time to tweet “just checked in…” on their PC, cell phone, blackberry, or iPho..ooooh…. THAT’S IT!

    That’s why they do it! To have an excuse to use their new toy. Ah, now I understand.

  8. It’s interesting that one’s experience and perception of twitter depends on the tool(s) used. If you have Twitterrific or similar app running on your desktop that pops up with every new tweet, that will be very different than if you periodically check into twitter on a “manual” basis, or if you have twitter open in a side bar of your web browser (ala TwitBin or TwitBar). Also, FYI, in terms of interruption factor, I want to make sure everyone knows that Twitterrific, and other desktop apps, allow you to change the frequency of checking for new tweets, anywhere from once per minute to once per hour. Other factors of your twitter experience include how many people you follow.

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