Will the Mobile Net Reduce Stress?
By Joachim Bamrud, Wed Jan 17 00:00:00 GMT 2001

New wireless Internet technologies and applications can make our lives easier. Or they could make our lives worse. The choice is largely ours to make.


An opinion piece in the Financial Times earlier this month warned of a catastrophe unless we start curbing the ever-growing connection between human beings as a result of improved technology. The author didn't address wireless technologies like WAP specifically, but we suspect he would include those in the technology definition.

For some time now, many people - especially business executives - have complained about "e-mail hell" - a new life where answering e-mail takes up an increasing amount of time and almost becomes the main activity of a given day.

So imagine if we add e-mail on mobile phones as a standard technology. Will we thus replace "e-mail hell" with "mobile e-mail hell?"

And what about all the complaints (especially in the United States) of those people who just can't get away from their cell phones - to the great annoyance of their surroundings? Will adding data to those very same phones worsen the situation even more?

Will we start seeing doctors that specialize in the treatment of MNS - Mobile Net Stress ?

The short answer: maybe. The longer one: it's really up to you.

Stress is typically caused by frustration over too little time to do too many things. And that's just the point with many of the technological inventions of our century. They are aimed at boosting our efficiency significantly.

Let's take the dreaded e-mail. What did we do before the advent of e-mail? We spent longer time tracking someone down on the phone, being put on hold and then talking back and forth - frequently with interruptions at both ends of the line. Often we wasted a lot of time playing phone-tag.

With e-mail we were provided a tool that could actually give us more control over our workday. Instead of answering each call, we can now prioritize which e-mails have to be answered first. Instead of having to make important international phone calls at ungodly hours just to be able to reach that client at the other end of the world, we can now e-mail when it is convenient for both parties.

E-mail has been identified as one of the key applications for the fixed Internet and is increasingly forecasted just as stellar a future on the mobile Net.

I believe the availability of the mobile e-mail will in fact help reduce a lot of the stress related to e-mail on the PC. Why? Well, for starters the sessions of answering 50 or so e-mails when you return to the office can be replaced by gradually answering new e-mails in the course of the day as you use your mobile in between meetings, in the cab or on the bus or while waiting for an appointment.

Business travellers will especially benefit as they suffer the paradox of having plenty of downtime before and after their scheduled business meeting and then suffer brutally when they return to the office with a million pending tasks (including reading e-mail).

This increased time-efficiency applies to many other applications and users as well. Instead of downtimes being wasted on staring at other people on the bus or reading some magazine you normally wouldn't read when waiting for your doctor's appointment, you can now log onto the mobile Netet and find a range of applications and information of much greater use.

For example, paying bills, purchasing a given product you've planned to buy, or simply reading important information that you wouldn't be able to access unless you were logged on to the fixed Internet in front of a desktop PC.

Accessing e-mail and the Internet from mobile devices also enable us to be more flexible about mixing work with personal errands. I recently sent an e-mail to a key executive at Lotus, who answered me back through his mobile phone while sitting on a beach somewhere.

If I can have the possibility every now and then of moving my office to a park while continuing to work and stay in touch with key communication, I will be able to reduce stress and boost my personal well-being.

In both these cases, of course, the key is to see beach and park visits as an alternative to otherwise being stuck in the office and not as an alternative to vacation or personal time where you're not supposed to think about the office.

And that's the bottom line here. The mobile Internet can make our lives easier or more complicated depending on the choices we make. Using the mobile Internet for company business when you're supposed to be off-duty cannot be blamed on the technology, but on the same choices we make when we do any company business on our spare time, whether it be reading that memo or document, making that voice call or even visiting the fixed Internet.

The mobile Net is thus a tool which it us up to us to use intelligently. If it doesn't work, don't shoot the messenger.

Joachim Bamrud is the editor of at Wapland.com An award-winning journalist with 17 years experience as a writer and editor in the United States, Europe and Latin America. Bamrud has worked for various print, broadcast and online media, including Latin Trade, Reuters and UPI. He can be reached at jbamrud@wapland.com.