Question 281 of 365: Who is our away message for?

For the third time in a month I am away for a long weekend. On each of
these occasions, I turned on the away message for email, chat and
voice mail. This is what one does in modern society. We have made a
contract with one another to always be online or available, and if we
intend to break that contract we must let people know about the
breech. Anything longer than a weekend must be written up as a kind of
post mortem for time lost away from your desk.

But I wonder who our away messages are really for.

Are we bragging that we have gotten away from the daily grind long
enough to appreciate the world around us? Or, are we apologizing to
those who wanted to connect with us, but now have to twiddle their
thumbs and wait for our return?

The people that know us and that are informed about our daily events
already know where we are going and they have wished us good luck or
given their condolences depending on the situation. The people that
are mere contacts of ours couldn’t care less about the few days that
we are taking off. Their email wasn’t all that time sensitive or
important to be answered instantly and they know this. It is only
those who wouldn’t otherwise know and would feel hurt by our
transgression of abandoning our post. We want to cause them to be
sympathetic when otherwise they would feel annoyed. In fact, we are
forcing them to be closer friends than they actually are by giving
them information regarding our whereabouts that only those who inquire
would have access to. We are pushing them to travel in our shoes a
moment and see what it would be like if they made similar choices.

We are saying “You too could be off of work, but since you aren’t,
don’t mind if I don’t email you back or respond to your voice mail for
a little while.”

I wonder if I should just state that the next time I’m away. I wonder
if my honesty would be rewarded or punished.

Sometimes, I feel like putting away messages even when I’m in, just so
the expectation of full attention to you and your issues isn’t quite
as high. But, the abuse of such a power, the too consistent breakage
of the working man’s social contract would not pan out. It is the
modern version of the boy who cried wolf. If I am too honest about my
absence, no one will call for me.

Is that a bad thing?

Posted via email from The Throughput

Leave a Reply