What Kind of Techie Are You?

December 27, 2011

Do you own a cell phone? Like the 83% of  US adults that do, the world is becoming increasingly tech-driven. It’s gotten me curious. Are there tech profiles? Do people’s tech preferences say something about them?

DigitalBuzz says that of the 4+ billion cellphones in use today, over 1 billion are smartphones. I want to know who those billion are. What kind of techie are YOU?

Please take my free ten-question online survey to find out!

In our device-driven world, we are not only connected with our families and friends at the touch of a button, we are also sincerely disconnected when we misplace the tools that let us connect in the first place.

Original Photo at MindfulBalance.org

Take my iPhone, that went missing for eleven hours and 26 minutes this weekend. Yes, I counted. Someone had mistaken it for his and had tucked it into his pocket before leaving my friend’s house. At the time I did not know what had happened. I just knew it was one of those “now you see it, now you don’t” scenarios. I tried calling it, but it was late. And on mute. So I was forced to go to bed, fretting that all my contacts had gone adrift in the blink of an eye.

We got down to the bottom of it by the morning and my iPhone was returned. But it got me to thinking about what happens when the tools upon which we so rely suddenly disappear.

For some it feels as if we’ve disappeared too.

Who are you without your smartphone? An avatar? A shadow of your true self?

It’s problematic, and can be life-threatening when taken too far. On the flight back from Berlin to Munich, my seatmate was fiddling with his phone as we were in a holding pattern just outside our landing zone (can you say iPhone addiction?). I strained to see whether it was in flight mode and think it may not have been. The flight was just over an hour. Couldn’t it wait?

I recalled the panic I had felt just the day before when I thought my phone was gone forever. We are so dependent on our machines. And I question whether that’s really a good thing.

Then another gadget took leave without saying goodbye: my pulse watch that measures the caloric burn during my spinning class. I had to borrow one at the gym because I couldn’t find mine. I felt the now-familiar iPhone fret hover over me. Then I stopped myself and said, “It’s just time to let go.”

In the moment I uttered those words, I looked down to see it lying on the table in the washroom where I had upturned most everything else.

Letting go is a great lesson to learn. Life keeps trying to teach me that one. How about you?

My iPhone doesn’t work in the United States. Or, more succinctly, the roaming charges would cost more than a flight at high season. So, along with my desktop, my automobile, and my TV work, I have laid my iPhone to rest for the next five weeks.

In a phrase, I am entering the No iPhone Zone.

It makes me light-headed at the thought, really. Fiddling with my various apps as we waited for the travel agent to nail down the actual flight times that had changed since we booked the trip seven months ago, I realized how wonderful my iPhone feels, resting with such trust in my hands. When some of my friends warned me about how fragile an iPhone can be, I quickly ran out to get a protective cover for it. And I’ve dropped mine twice; each time it was cushioned by an ultra-shock absorbing cover, a ‘thick skin’ if you will, to ensure a soft landing on any hard-tiled floor. I take great care to always have it with me. Not very slow of me, I know. But there are some things a girl just can’t do without.

Or can she?

As the travel agent clicked and tsked at his desk, my children and I each pulled out our various gadgets to make the wait more bearable. He went on and on with the airline until I finally got up, confident that my children were adequately distracted, and ran an errand before plopping myself down again. Just as I entered his office again, he put down the phone.

“I really don’t have time for this,” he sighed, as he folded the final travel documents into an envelope. His desk was clear, he had no to-dos bursting from his appointment book, and I wondered, as I discreetly tucked my iPhone into my bag, what he did have time for. Booking travel arrangements for people is his job, after all. Maybe it was all in his iPhone hidden in a drawer somewhere.

As we gathered our things, I spoke loudly enough so the agent could hear me. “We’re travelling without our gadgets,” I explained to the children who looked at me quizzically. But then, through some magical spell, they agreed.

“No iPod, no iPhone, no nothing. Nada. Nichts! We’re going to take in our surroundings when we reach the States. Basta!”

We all laughed at the thought of a real-live unplugged vacation. Go West, young lassy. And leave those devices behind. I can do it. I know I can.

It may not be as quiet in the car now, but I’m actually glad. That No iPhone Zone is sounding pretty good after all!

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What else are you doing while reading this? Shopping on Zappos? Checking your email? Tweeting? The World Wide Web is both a blessing and a curse. It has revolutionized countless aspects of our lives and makes working from anywhere in the world both intriguing and possible. The Internet can be a fun, interactive, community-building, and fascinating cosmos. It can also eat up more of your time than you realize as you ‘quickly’ surf the Internet for something, only to bounce errantly from one Web site to the next. I am guilty of it. You might be, too. We are entangled in the Web like rose tendrils on a lattice.

Love it. Hate it. It’s here to stay.

According to a recent social media addiction study by Retrevo, almost one third of those surveyed under age 35 admitted to checking their social media pages such as Twitter and Facebook more than ten times a day. Thirty-six percent of the 35 and under group stated they update their status right after having sex. It may be healthier than having a cigarette, but is it normal? Forty percent in this same age group admitted to updating their profiles while driving (which definitely isn’t safe). This isn’t to say that older generations aren’t fallen victim to Facebook syndrome. In 2009, the fastest growing demographic on Facebook was no other than the 55 and over crowd!

Post-coital tweets and obsessive Facebook checking are only the tip of the iceberg, however. As more and more adults go online (it is 80% of the US adult population at present), Internet addiction has become a more prevalent issue. According to the American Psychiatric Association, a proper diagnosis of Internet Addiction Disorder requires that three or more of the following symptoms must be present over any given twelve month period.

1. Your tolerance level increases while the level of satisfaction diminishes. You need more and more time on the Internet to get the same kick.

2.  You experience two or more withdrawal symptoms developing within days to one month after reducing or stopping your online time. These symptoms then cause distress or impair your ability to interact socially.

3.  The only way to alleviate these symptoms is to use the Internet.

4.  You use the Internet more often, and for longer, than you intended.

5.  You spend a big chunk of your day or night on Internet-related activities.

6.  You give up important social, occupational, or recreational activities to be online instead.

7.  You risk the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of your excessive Internet usage.

Like television, the Internet has a way of drawing you in and holding your attention. Other signs of a true digital addiction include severe weight loss or gain from hours of Internet surfing, nervousness, irritability and insomnia. What can we do about our digital dilemma? Certainly instant communication can alleviate our workload, but it can contribute greatly to it as well. Here are a few strategies to balance online and offline time.

  1. Insert a digital-free day (DFD) into the least busy day of your week. If you’re a busy business executive, for instance, it may be best to make your DFD on a Saturday. Make use of your auto-responder or voicemail to let people know you are unavailable. If you’re a mother, perhaps your DFD day should be on a Sunday, or whichever day you do a lot of other chores such as driving the kids to practice, doing the laundry and paying bills anyway.
  2. Take a cell phone sabbatical for an afternoon. Lock it in your trunk or give it to a friend for a specified time.
  3. Plug into the tangible world around you every day. Do at least one daily unplugged activity such as going to the gym, socializing with friends face to face or attending a cultural event.
  4. Make an effort to have face-to-face contact with people every day. Give someone a real-live hug. In fact, hugs are most certainly one of the best kinds of contact you can have.
  5. If you find you have symptoms such as the ones listed above, get professional help. The first net addiction recovery program in Seattle opened its doors recently. Visit (http://www.netaddictionrecovery.com) for more.

The Internet offers infinite possibilities for us all. Be sure, however, that your virtual world is only an augmentation to the real one in which we live.

**This article was originally published on WowOwow.com under the title ‘7 Signs You’re an Internet Addict’.