We the people of the 21st century, in order to function in this nonstop, always-on society, must adhere to the non-written social norms of keeping our smartphones nearby at all times for every tweet, text, or email, and do establish this mantra of stress to success lifestyle.
Sound familiar? We adapted this phrase from the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution, which promotes the theme of general welfare, among other themes central to our country.
When we think about inequality in America, we typically jump to the wage gap or the lack of access to health care, but we do not often think about how technology contributes to our stress to success mentality, as it renders work-life balance nearly impossible.
Think about how many times you have been distracted by someone’s phone going off while you are in class. The world never stops. It cannot afford to stop. Time is money, which is why the 9 to 5 workday does not really exist anymore. Just because you left work does not mean you can realistically stop working, as most employers heavily rely on email communication.
If you do not check your email periodically throughout the day, your employer might think that you do not care enough about your work. Most of us have accepted the 24-hour workday because we do not have much of a choice not to accept it.
We allow work emails to invade our much-needed me-time because we believe it will make us and the company more efficient. However, this around-the-clock workday contributes to the mentality that being stressed is the equivalent to being successful.
This 24-hour workday also applies to social media, as it also never stops. If you are absent from some social media channels that you frequent, people think you have something wrong with you. What, you cannot manage to post artsy photos of the event you are attending AND enjoy yourself? Come on, this is the 21st century. The world deserves to see your photos too, or at least this is our mentality.
This is not to say that technology is not immensely helpful in everyday life. Technology is the reason why you are able to read this article. It is the reason why most of us are able to function as adults—from getting out of bed in the morning to finding the best place to get a burrito in Boston (which we hear is El Pelόn Taquería).
No one person can solve this problem alone. Addressing this problem means that organizations must step back and evaluate their values and whether or not their members’ actions coincide with those values. A remedy for managing stress may mean deciding as an organization not to send or reply to emails on the weekend.
During the week, managing stress might also look like having realistic expectations of one another; in other words, recognizing that we have lives outside of work, and therefore, might not respond to or check emails every five minutes. If we are to conquer the problem of 21st century stress, we must remember that we are all busy, and that we must respect each other’s work-life limits.