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Josh Bergeron: Time to take a vacation from our smartphone addictions

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

Vacation is normally a time for relaxation, but panic set in hours after starting mine on June 11.

What was I missing out on? How would I communicate with people? How would I get around town?

My smartphone, despite being labeled as water resistant up to five feet, was in its death throes after spending a minute or so in a pool.

My phone’s notification light rapidly changed colors. The phone screen alternated between flashes of green and the kind of static you’d see on an old TV. It died within a few minutes.

The story of my smartphone’s demise instantly becomes worse when I reveal that I intentionally tossed the phone into the pool in question. Acting on a dare from my 13-year-old brother, I set out to test the water resistance of my phone.

I know. It’s puzzling that I would toss an electronic device into water. After all, the phone was water resistant not water proof.

One day after the smartphone incident, my dad and I drove to the nearest AT&T store to upgrade my phone. He used his smartphone to navigate to the store.

After recovering from a week of jokes from family members, I began to think about all the ways I rely on my smartphone for daily tasks.

After my phone sank to its watery grave, I was left without a way to instantly communicate with people hundreds or thousands of miles away. I couldn’t call people with another person’s phone because I only know a handful of phone numbers, most of which are work-related. The death of my phone also meant I didn’t have a way to navigate in unfamiliar places.

The verdict is clear: I rely on my smartphone entirely too much for daily tasks. Many Americans with smartphones are guilty of the same.

A survey released in December by the multinational firm Deloitte found that smartphone users in the United States collectively check their phones more than 9 billion times per day — an astronomical number. The survey found that half of those asked checked their devices in the middle of the night, and a many people also check their devices while doing other activities.

A separate, recent study by the Pew Research Center found that roughly 77 percent of American adults own a smartphone. That’s roughly 200 million people, according to census estimates.

If we use all those numbers together, one American with a smartphone checks his or her device 45 times per day. A least one of those 45 instances likely occurs while driving.

The truth is we use our phones entirely too much, and the word “phone” isn’t really appropriate any more. My phone for example can shoot high-quality video, edit that video, take photos that are good enough to run in the newspaper, complete complex math problems, communicate with people several states or countries away and numerous other tasks. Often, I use my phone to pay bills and manage my bank account.

The device on my desk as I type this column is more like a phone than what’s in my pocket. When I need to make I call, I press a combination of numbers into the device on my desk, and within a few seconds I can talk to someone thousands of miles away. That’s it. It doesn’t check Facebook, and it certainly can’t edit photos or videos like my smartphone can.

The small devices we have in our pockets are supercomputers, and we’re addicted to them.

I haven’t made any progress in cutting back on that addiction since dropping my phone in a pool, but it’s a goal I should pursue. We should all aim to check social media less and engage in real discussion more often.

Maybe the solution to our addiction is testing whether our tiny supercomputers are also water resistant?

Josh Bergeron is associate editor and covers county government, politics and the environment for the Salisbury Post.

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