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Check your tech at the Oval Office

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Check your tech at the Oval Office
Posted Nov. 21, 2008

Barack Obama and I have something in common. We are both completely attached to our e-mail.

Technology is crucial to our lives—our Blackberries are our lifelines. We must be constantly connected and available to friends, family and coworkers, 24/7. There is no excuse not to respond to messages; we have the technology literally at our fingertips.

But unfortunately for our President-elect, Obama will soon have to part ways with his Blackberry. Because of the Presidential Records Act, any correspondence made by Obama must be surrendered and eventually put up for public review. But due to Internet security, our next president will no longer have access to his Blackberry or e-mail. All presidents before him have given up their technology to comply with this law, which was enacted in 1981.

Nevertheless, if laws are indeed restructured to fit the 21st century, Obama could be the first President in the Oval Office to have a laptop computer on his desk. He is trying to move government forward in terms of technology. His weekly addresses to the nation will be available on YouTube. So it is understandable that the law might seem antiquated to some.

In a recent New York Times article, members of Obama’s campaign team noted that most memos and briefing books were sent to his Blackberry for review, instead of printing out hard copies. Obama was able to look over documents at a quick pace because they were always accessible to him by e-mail. Friends of the new President stated that he often had his Blackberry close to him, usually fastened to his belt.

Although government officials should err on the side of caution, with the possibilities of hackers and security breaches, I personally can sympathize with the dread Obama must be feeling in giving up his technology. I recently have admitted my complete dependence on my cell phone.

Since switching providers this summer, I now have good coverage, unlimited texting, Internet access and e-mail. I was delighted with the opportunities to surf the Web and check my e-mail whenever I needed to. But after school started, I began to see an addiction developing. I checked cnn.com on my phone between classes to read breaking news stories. I made sure new e-mails were answered right away. I texted instead of calling friends to actually talk. I reached a point when an intervention might have been necessary. I realized I had a problem when I checked my email before bed one night and couldn’t sleep because I was so stressed out from a message I read.

So I came to find that immediate action was essential. I decided to set ground rules for myself: no e-mail after 9 p.m., texting only when I can’t physically call someone and setting my phone out of eyesight when I’m not using it. This last goal was extremely helpful—if I don’t see my phone, I’m not tempted to have it glued to my hand.

Now I feel like my cell phone is a bonus to my personal technology, but it’s not running my life. Maybe Obama could benefit from a Blackberry break. He will certainly face more stress in his life than I could ever possibly imagine. Perhaps taking a pause from his constant need to be briefed will help him retain appropriate priorities. It makes sense that the nation needs access to presidential e-mails—made clearly obvious by the secretive correspondences conducted by the Bush administration. But I understand how hard it is to acknowledge your technological weaknesses. I have some advice for the soon to be president—let them take the Blackberry, at least for a little while.

Erin Konrad, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at erin.konrad@laverne.edu.