Monday, August 17, 2009

That's Why They Call 'Em Crackberries

I said I’d never do it. I’d never get a Blackberry. Cell phones can be enough of a distraction, but a device that gets calls, texts, Internet access and emails from both home and work? No way. I was afraid I’d become like so many around me, checking email constantly. Hearing that “bloop” sound that notifies them of a text or an email from one of 2, 3 or more accounts. My sister said that since her husband got one she feels like another person is in their relationship.

Nope. Not me. Not gonna do it.

Then… my phone stopped working, my plan was up and I wandered into the store and, well, they got me. Now, I feel like I’m turning into one of “them". I have tried to ignore it when the notifications happen, but it’s hard. It seems like its calling my name while I’m driving with its insidious noises. I feel like I have to check. Like I’m missing something. I can’t help it!

Apparently, I’m not the only one. Experts have warned Blackberry type devices can be so addictive that owners may need to be weaned off them with treatment similar to that given to drug users. A study by New Jersey's Rutgers University School claims the Blackberry is fueling a rise in email and Internet addiction, with sufferers able to survive only a few minutes without checking for new mail. One key sign of a user being addicted is if they focus on their Blackberry ignoring those around them.

I have a friend who doesn’t own a cell phone. He is a successful professional businessman who basically just refuses to give in to the technology. I debated with him ever so slightly, although I don’t know why. He’s heard enough arguments over the years I doubt I can introduce anything new that would change his mind. I tossed in my reasons like safety on the road, emergencies, running late, an accident, and just generally being accessible—which was probably my worst argument.

He admitted that he sometimes wishes he had one, especially when traveling. But that he is carrying out his own quiet little quixotic campaign against cell phones, because he finds them so annoying when he’s with people that are constantly taking calls or checking email on their Blackberry while they are supposed to be doing business. He had me at that one.

My co-host Scott Wynn and I were talking about technology on the air the other day. A caller expressed her irritation at computers. She said she didn’t have one and would never get one. Scott said he’s never known technology to go backward and that like it or not, computers, cell phones, Blackberries, and smart devices of all kinds are not going away. And while that's true, I think it's a new challenge to find a way to not let common sense and good manners regress as the technology makes progress.

As I listened to that lady at the checkout line in Giant Eagle scream into her cell phone (why do people talk so loudly when on their cell?) I found that my friend's quiet little quixotic campaign against cell phones was making more sense that I may want to admit to him.