Do you suffer from smart phone disease?


I recently came across a CNN article that urges, “Be polite and put your smart phone down.” The article was sobering because it reminded me of the many ways I have allowed my smart phone (a 3G iPhone) to worm its way into my personal life like a virus — even altering my behavior in subtle but important ways. Consider this:

  • Recently when I woke up for work, I swear my first conscious thought was, “Did I remember to charge my iPhone last night?” Not, “I’m hungry” or “Time to hop into the shower.”
  • My walk to and from the commuter train takes a little longer. Why? Because I’m mentally distracted as I read my email on my iPhone while I’m walking. (At least I remember to watch where I’m going before I cross the street — so far.)
  • I’m getting sloppy. The “pardon the typos while I respond to your message on my iPhone” mentality is taking hold. I’ve become more tolerant of writing gaffes than I should be.
  • Although I have never texted or checked email while driving, I’ve done so at lengthy stop lights or while waiting for a train to cross the tracks in front of me. Some might say that at least I’m using down time productively. But too often I’m jolted back to reality by a car honking behind me when the light turns green or the train passes, and I’m still goofing around with my phone. Not good — just begging for an accident. And on top of that, whatever happened to using down time to meditate, pray, or enjoy the time-honored tradition of counting box cars? Does anyone do that anymore or are we all heads-down now?
  • More than once my daughter has asked me to turn off my iPhone when we are together. We have a rule now: phones off when we are together unless I get “permission” and explain why I need the phone on (say, an absolutely unavoidable issue has arisen at work, and it’s better if I use my phone quickly to dispatch with the problem so that we can get on with our lives.)

I am most bothered by the way I have allowed my phone to intrude on my family time. I don’t want my daughter remember her dad as someone she shared with a device while she was growing up. I certainly don’t want my wife to feel that way about her husband, either.

Recently it was suggested to me that I simply must accept reality: we live in a world where we must multi-task mentally all the time especially when our attention is divided among so many conversational channels (Facebook, Twitter, email, phone, etc.). It’s just reality. But I don’t know about that. Surely we have not reached a point where our personal devices constantly need our attention and time like another family member?

This Labor Day I’m going to do something that I hope you will, too: I’m turning my phone off unless I need to use it to call a family member or friend — the way we used to use phones. Maybe I should use my quiet time this weekend re-reading Cell, the Stephen King novel about a signal emitted through mobile devices that turns people into lunatics. It’s a fascinating read, by the way — published in 2006, the book feels more relevant with each passing year.

Whatever I do with my phone turned off, I suspect the world will be just fine without me while I’m gone.

3 thoughts on “Do you suffer from smart phone disease?

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    • Thank you, Eric — I think that article should provide plenty of motivation for us to pay attention. It\’s scary how many people I\’ve noticed texting or otherwise fumbling with their phones when driving. You can usually tell: you see a car in the lane next to you moving very slowly. And obviously the same danger is present when we are just walking down the sidewalk.

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