I came across an interesting article in the September edition of AARP Bulletin. The article was written by Cynthia Ramnarace and it was called “Smartphone NationIt had some great statistics on smartphone usage that surprised me.  The biggest surprise was that 50% of all Baby Boomers sleep with their cellphones within arm’s reach.  I wouldn’t have guessed it was that high.  I would have thought that we were so attached to it during the day that the last thing we want is to put it next to our nightstands at night.  I guess only half of us agree with me. 

Another interesting statistic from the Pew Research Center is how the IPhone has increased usage by turning the cellphones into what the reporter calls  “entertainment centers”.  I had never thought of cell phones or really smartphones in that light but I think it’s so true.  According to Pew in 2007, the year the IPhone made its debut, only 11% of people used a phone to access the Internet. By May of this year, that percentage  has gone up to 38%.  What percentage do you think it will be next May?

But the article really warns about our addiction to smartphones.  Ramnarace quotes Patricia Wallace, author of The Pychology of the Internet” who describes smartphones as a “pocket-size game of chance”.  The author compares it to a slot machine where you never know whether you will be rewarded or not when you pull the lever.  What a great description.  Everytime I hear my IPhone alert me of a call, a text, a voicemail or email, I have to fight the urge to pick up the phone and look at the message.  Most of the time, I’m disappointed because it wasn’t anything urgent and it made me get distracted from what I was doing.

I often hear many Baby Boomers criticize Millennials for their need to be constantly connected but truthfully, what about us?  Aren’t we doing the same thing with our smartphones?   Recently, I’ve forced myself to observe fellow Baby Boomers in  networking  events to see if they were overindulging their smartphones.  Over 70% of them took out their smartphones either while listening to a speaker, while engaging in conversation with a group of people or while standing off on their own.  That’s a lot of indulgence.  We talk about technology getting in the way of the Millennials’ ability to be in the moment but frankly, what about us?  We can apologize all we want for having to “take” this call, or respond ”quickly” to this email, or “answer” this text but we are engaging in the same multi-tasking activities that drive us crazy when we see it in the Millennials.

Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to criticize Millennials?  Maybe the quick pace of today’s workplace affects all of us but we just don’t see it as well in ourselves as we do in others? Maybe we should try to stop overindulging the smartphone and overindulge in connecting and interacting with others.  That’s always more rewarding.

The article has a quick quiz at the end to spot if you are hooked on your smartphone.  Take it and see if you need an intervention.  Chances are you will…