; Your World
There are other motivations. “I love my BlackBerry,” says Maryellen Nugent-Lee, 55, of New York. “It keeps me entertained and connect- ed. I can check all my e-mails, text and get back to people immediately. It makes me a better me.” But many psychologists chafe at such explana-
tions. Chief among their many concerns: Do smartphones rob us of real
relationships? Have they eliminated our ability to experience the reality
of the moment? Have we forgotten the pleasure of being idle? And are the
new phones the ultimate mask for our insecurities?
Can followers be friends? Thanks to her Wine Twits group on
Twitter—which she accesses on her BlackBerry—Nugent-Lee found
out about an interactive wine-tasting event.
“You used your BlackBerry to tweet about each of the di;erent
wines,” she says. “Someone would say, ‘Don’t miss this one,’ and then
you’d tweet about that. It was so much fun.”
But did it earn her any new friends? No.
Psychologists fear that people are spending enormous amounts of time
cultivating virtual relationships at the expense of getting to know the
flesh-and-bone folks standing right in front of them. “You really have
to force yourself to look at things like Facebook as bonus activities and
not neglect the people that support you and would be there for you if
you needed help,” says consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, chair of the
Department of Psychology at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.
multitasking to a whole new
level—and to whole new
arenas. “People are in some
moment but they are not in
the moment,” says New York
psychologist Stacey Rosenfeld.
“Etiquette has somewhat been
thrown out the window.”
Michael Sick, 56, of San
Diego, admits to texting while
talking. But his job requires
him to be in constant contact
with clients, and thanks to the
iPhone, he’s not tied to a desk.
He says he can be out and
about, and if he has to take a
second to respond to some-
If you answer yes to any of the
thing, he can jump right back into the conversation once he’s done.
following questions posed by New
York psychologist Stacey Rosenfeld,
consider the “off” button.
; Are you able
to sit down to
a meal with
; Do you feel
the need to
phone in the
middle of a
Plus, it’s the only way he’d ever know what his kids were up to.
“I’ve got four kids. If I send them a text, they’ll respond 10 times quicker
than they’ll respond to a voice mail,” Sick says. Another benefit: He can
also log on to Facebook to see what his kids are doing through their posts.
For older adults like Sick, connection is often a job requirement. “Older
people are trying to stay in the workforce longer, so I think smartphones
create a feeling of security that they are not falling behind with technol-
ogy,” says psychiatrist Scott Bea of the Cleveland Clinic.
Sneaking work into idle minutes can aid productivity, says Laura
Vanderkam, author of 168 Minutes: You Have More Time Than You Think.
“But smartphones are a time suck if they distract you from projects that
are actually far more important to you, like finishing a work project or even
spending some quiet time thinking,” she says. “They’re good if you use
them to send a quick note to your
grandkids while waiting in line
or look up ingredients in a recipe
while running errands.”
But if you’re not paying atten-
tion to cars whizzing by, or are
updating your Facebook status
rather than paying attention to
your conversation, you’re defi-
nitely not living in the moment.
And that bothers psychologists.
Says Golden Gate University’s
Yarrow, “You have to live a good
part of your life fully engaged with your surroundings, and most par-
ticularly with other people, in order to feel the most alive.”
Smartphones can also mask insecurity about being alone.
“People use their iPhone like a binky,” says Yarrow. “It’s like, ‘Nobody
is paying attention to me, I can always interact with this thing.’ ” The
downside of that, she says, is becoming less able to relate to people.
So the next time you’re sitting alone in a dentist’s o;ce or waiting for
a friend at a restaurant, don’t dive into the virtual world. Take in the sur-
roundings. Engage the waiter in small talk. Breathe deeply.
“Connections are the fuel of life, the core component of happiness,”
Yarrow says. “We need to be connected to other people, even if it’s just
looking at the person that’s ringing up your groceries while she’s doing
it, instead of staring at your iPhone. That’s meaningful.” ;
Cynthia Ramnarace writes about health and families from New York.
; Do you use
next to the
while walking or
; Have you
noticed that all
are taking place
than in person?
; Do you
; Does your