On Cell Phone Forums
For cell-phone addicts, turning the ringer off is no longer an option
By Cynthia Hubert -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PDT Monday, May 30, 2005
Sergio Chaparro's information-technology students had more than just a
healthy attachment to their cell phones.
When he asked them to shut them off for three days, they panicked.
"They were afraid. They were truly afraid," Chaparro, then an
instructor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, recalled of the
assignment last year. "They thought it was going to be a painful
experience, and they were right."
Only three of about 220 students managed to complete the assignment.
To Chaparro, now an assistant professor at Simmons College in Boston,
the experiment confirmed what he strongly suspected was a widespread
psychological dependence on cell phones.
"I think it's critical that people realize their level of dependency,
and possibly do something about it," he said.
Business executives. Soccer moms. Travelers. Teenagers. All of them
adore their cell phones. But when does love turn into addiction?
A Korean study found recently that nearly a third of high school
students showed signs of addiction, including paranoia, when they were
without their phones, and two-thirds were "constantly worried" that
they would miss a text message when their phones were off.
In Britain, researchers concluded that people are so intimately
connected with their cell phones that they see them as "an essential
item, an extension of self."
"No other medium has infiltrated society so widely and so quickly" to
alter lifestyles, and "no other portable medium is used so
frequently," wrote researchers for Teleconomy Group. They surveyed 210
consumers about their use of mobile phones.
Here in America, research on emotional attachment to cell phones has
been sparse. But Joseph Tecce, an associate professor of psychology at
Boston College, said it is a rich field to be mined.
Like substance abuse, Tecce said, excessive use of cell phones can
lead to personal problems.
"If you try to exert control over your use of the phone and you can't
do it, that's dependence. That's addiction," said Tecce, who studies
"psychobiological behavior" including addictions and phobias.
"People who instantly reach for the cell phone every time they feel
uneasy or anxious about a problem are relying too much on it," he
Ultimately, said Tecce, such behavior undermines self-reliance and
"Like many rewarding experiences, leaning heavily on cell phones for
advice or psychological nurturance is effective in reducing anxiety in
the short term, but harmful in the long term," he said.
"How? By taking away control of one's behavior and placing it in the
hands of others. After all, a problem might arise without a handy cell
phone, and then helplessness rules the hour."
Too much yapping on the cell phone, Tecce added, can also lead to "a
constant state of distraction" that "takes away a key component of
happiness, the pleasure of total absorption of one activity to the
exclusion of everything else."
Tecce recommended that cell phone abusers "put themselves on a quota
system, either so many minutes per day or so many calls per day" in an
effort to break a serious habit.
Dependence on electronic devices is hardly limited to cell phones,
said Bill Lampton, a communications specialist and author in Georgia.
Electronic mail, he said, is equally addictive.
"Not long ago my e-mail system was down for 24 hours," recalled
Lampton, author of the book "The Complete Communicator."
"How did I feel? Isolated, marooned, in a sense almost rejected
because I couldn't contact business and personal associates."
As for the cell phone, "It's not an exaggeration to say that it has
become our contemporary pacifier," Lampton said. "As long as we're
holding it, we don't show signs of unrest.
"The difficulty comes when we lose our perspective on a tool that
we're supposed to control - not let control us."
David Mullinax, a lobbyist who does business in Santa Barbara and
Sacramento, admitted an addiction to his BlackBerry, a wireless gadget
that, among other things, transmits e-mail.
"Absolutely," he said. " 'Crack'-Berry is appropriate nomenclature."
Despite his attachment to the device, Mullinax said, it often makes
him feel "bludgeoned with information overload" and ultimately feeling
"weak and ineffectual."
"It's like being caught in a wave and being tossed around like a rag
doll, unable to control where you're going and not able to assimilate
the information into anything truly worthwhile," he said.
Cell phones are particularly seductive because they are relatively
cheap, readily available and highly portable, Chaparro said.
"Society as a whole has created a dependency," he said. Marketing of
cell phones is relentless, and access to pay phones and other "land
lines" is growing more and more limited, Chaparro noted. So people
feel they "have" to carry cell phones. And once they do, they tend to
In his class last year, Chaparro said, he learned "amazing things"
about the cell phone culture of his students.
"For most of them, the phone was a lifeline in many ways," he said. "I
had one student who went on a spring break trip to Florida, lost her
cell phone, and her mom had to FedEx another one from home right away.
She said, 'I didn't feel secure, Sergio. I couldn't even call to rent
a car.' "
Against his better judgment, Chaparro said, he recently broke down and
bought a cell phone for himself.
"And let me tell you, it's addictive," he said. "I have the very
simplest one, the cheapest one ever, no camera, no text, nothing. I
pay the minimum. But sometimes I feel I can't leave home without it."
As cell phones become ubiquitous, with more and more fancy features,
people's "addiction" to them is likely to increase, he said.
"We need some voices out there to tell people to be cautious about
this," Chaparro said. "It's not about stopping progress. Nothing will
stop the cell phone. It's about making people realize that perhaps
they are a little too dependent on them and that maybe there are other
ways to interact."
Are you "addicted" to your cell phone? Communications expert and
author Bill Lampton says you might be if:
* You neglect other responsibilities because you are spending too much
time on the phone.
* You assume that you are always accomplishing something when you are
using your phone.
* You carry the device with you everywhere, "even to football games,
nightclubs and formal banquets."
* You can't resist using your phone even if you challenge yourself to
shut it off for a while.
"In the future, my private life will be expressed solely through art."
-- Britney Spears
› See More: For cell-phone addicts, turning the ringer off is no longer an option
Re: For cell-phone addicts, turning the ringer off is no longer an option
>"How did I feel? Isolated, marooned, in a sense almost rejected
>because I couldn't contact business and personal associates."
THE CASTAWAY ENGINEER
An engineer finally splurged on a luxury cruise to the Caribbean.
Just as he was beginning to enjoy himself, a hurricane roared upon the cruise
ship, capsizing it like a child's toy. Somehow the engineer, desperately
hanging on to a life preserver, managed to wash ashore on a secluded island.
Outside of beautiful scenery, a spring-fed pool, bananas and coconuts, there was
little else. He lost all hope and for hours on end, sat under same palm tree.
One day, after several months had passed, a gorgeous woman in a small rowboat
"I'm from the other side of the island," she said. "Were you on the cruise ship,
"Yes, I was, " he answered. "But where did you get that rowboat?"
"Well, I whittled the oars from gum tree branches, wove the reinforced gunwale
from palm branches, and made the keel and stern from a Eucalyptus tree."
"But, what did you use for tools?" asked the man.
"There was a very unusual strata of alluvial rock exposed on the south side of
the island. I discovered that if I fired it to a certain temperature in my
kiln, it melted into forgeable ductile iron. Anyhow, that's how I got the
tools. But, enough of that," she said. "Where have you been living all this
time? I don't see any shelter."
"To be honest, I've just been sleeping on the beach," he said.
"Would you like to come to my place?" the woman asked. The engineer nodded
She expertly rowed them around to her side of the island, and tied up the boat
with a handsome strand of hand-woven hemp topped with a neat back splice. They
walked up a winding stone walk she had laid and around a Palm tree. There stood
an exquisite bungalow painted in blue and white.
"It's not much, but I call it home." Inside, she said, "Sit down please; would
you like to have a drink?"
"No, thanks," said the man. "One more coconut juice and I'll throw up!"
"It won't be coconut juice," the woman replied. "I have a crude still out back,
so we can have authentic Pina Coladas."
Trying to hide his amazement, the man accepted the drink, and they sat down on
her couch to talk. After they had exchanged stories, the woman asked, "Tell me,
have you always had a beard?"
"No," the man replied, "I was clean shaven all of my life until I ended up on
"Well if you'd like to shave, there's a razor upstairs in the bathroom cabinet."
The man, no longer questioning anything, went upstairs to the bathroom and
shaved with an intricate bone-and-shell device honed razor sharp. Next he
showered -- not even attempting to fathom a guess as to how she managed to get
warm water into the bathroom -- and went back downstairs. He couldn't help but
admire the masterfully carved banister as he walked.
"You look great," said the woman. "I think I'll go up and slip into something
As she did, the man continued to sip his Pina Colada. After a short time, the
woman, smelling faintly of gardenias, returned wearing a revealing gown
fashioned out of pounded palm fronds.
"Tell me," she asked, "we've both been out here for a very long time with no
companionship. You know what I mean. Haven't you been lonely, too? Isn't
there something that you really, really miss? Something that all men and woman
need? Something that would be really nice to have right now!"
"Yes there is!" the man replied, shucking off his shyness. "There is something
I've wanted to do for so long. But on this island all alone, it was
just...well, it was impossible."
"Well, it's not impossible, any more," the woman said.
The engineer, panting in excitement, said breathlessly: "You mean... you
actually figured out some way we can check our eMail here?"
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