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No Line Between Work and Play

Let’s turn the clock back for a minute. Imagine the old days of farming a family plot. There was work, and there was family and friends, and both happened in the same place, at the same time. There was very little distinction between the two. TV or radio didn’t exist. Life was about working enough to keep the farm producing, then occupying yourself the rest of the time.

As factories and other capital-intensive businesses began to spring up, you had to go somewhere to work. Whereas farming happened on the family plot and at home, industrial work now happened at a place away from home.

Offices (for administrative and knowledge workers) were set up the same way. A physical location was required to store files, have a phone system, and keep behemoth machines like typewriters and, eventually, computers and other IT infrastructure. This gave rise to a completely new idea: “real friends” and “work friends.”

Then came the Internet and wireless, and suddenly the flow of information was nearly free. Laptops and home computers were more powerful than mainframes from just 20 years before. And companies realized they no longer needed employees seated inside of an office to complete their work. In some cases, they didn’t need “employees” at all – contractors would do just fine.

Suddenly “work” was no longer a geography. Companies weren’t loyal stewards of their employees. The places people once went to escape from work were now places where work happened: a home office, a library, or a local coffee shop. These are symbols of the modern workplace.

Losing the work geography also means losing the work time. Work isn’t a nine-to-five, five-days-a-week thing anymore. It happens on mobile phones while watching reruns of Seinfeld. It happens while waiting in line at the grocery store. In short, there’s no obvious separation between work and every other part of your life. Not in time, not in geography.

So who are our “playmates” then? The people we love to know and with whom we share our life’s experiences? Who, I ask you, are our “real friends” and “work friends?” That line, too, has blurred, for the very same reasons I’ve outlined here.

The distinction between work and play has lessened, and in many cases is rather meaningless. The relationships we create tend to span both contexts. Just like there’s no set time or place for work, there’s no single context or category for your relationships.

As work and play have merged – or at least blurred – so has the nature of our relationships.

Now more than ever, our deepest relationships may not fit neatly into one category or the other. Which means that creating relationships that really matter is an imperative. And it’s not just you; we’re all seeking meaningful relationships, from any friend that will have us.