BlackBerry Not So Sweet?


Some women fantasize about handsome, muscle-sculpted men; others about luxurious, tropical resorts.

Me, I fantasize about dropping my husband's BlackBerry into a tall glass of water and watching its farewell bubbles as it drifts slowly to the bottom. I would grin with satisfaction at a blank screen that can no longer buzz and ring at inopportune moments, and no longer convey every last e-mail he receives, any time of day or night.

Of course, the repercussions of such an act would be quite serious, so I keep this fantasy under wraps for the most part. But what I can't contain is my loathing for this portable device and the disruption it wreaks with its constant interference.

The BlackBerry, for me, has become the symbol of technology in control of our lives, our dialogue and our freedom. My mission has become to alert said husband to the takeover of technology, and somehow convince him to cripple the BlackBerry, ban it from his pocket or at least turn it off when he is with his family. For how can you be truly in the present moment when you are being beeped and buzzed with incessant messages?

"I need it for work," he argues on a Saturday morning as we head to synagogue, and I wonder out loud why the BlackBerry — aka the "Nuisance: — is joining us. "What if something urgent comes up? I need to be available."

Ah. Availability. It's hard to come up with a counter for that argument, especially when your husband is a doctor.

But the truth is that the messages that come in are not terribly important. "Play poker Wednesday night?" a friend texts. "Check out this song on iTunes," another e-mails. Each message is diligently read and responded to, regardless of whether we are driving, at a park with the kids or dining out with friends. The "Nuisance" always rules.

Been There, Dumped That …

A little history: After using a cell phone for a few months some six years ago, I paid up my account and pressed the little button that would forever turn it off. Though I enjoyed the rush of self-importance that would flood me briefly when the cell phone rang, I hated being constantly available and distracted by a telephone.

Though friends wonder how I can hope to be a good mother without a cell phone ("What if something happens to the kids, and they need to reach you?"), I've not missed it for a nanosecond.

What I do miss is the peacefulness of life without the "Nuisance" — and I'm not alone.

I have at least one ally in my friend Micky.

"My husband is addicted to his BlackBerry," she confesses when he's out of earshot. "We can't go anywhere without it, and when it rings, it takes precedence over any conversation we're having, and anything that we're doing. It drives me crazy."

Other "BlackBerry wives" are more patient, even when the device openly defies all social niceties. My friend Ella sat silently at my dinner table a few weeks ago, watching her husband's fingers splayed across the keyboard of his BlackBerry all through the meal. Yes, he made conversation. However the entire time, his eyes were riveted to the screen. He wasn't truly with us at all.

The "Nuisance" has no respect for limitations, and its owners don't take kindly to switching it off — my husband, in particular. The argument of availability comes up frequently, but mostly, I believe, it's the powerlessness of not being connected when connectivity has become a pure and total addiction.

The BlackBerry has an uncanny habit of blurring the lines between necessity and desire in those who own it. It fuels self-importance, power and egotism — somehow convincing its users that the information it relays is a crucial part of their lives and needs to be addressed now.

Whatever may be going on at the time a message comes in — be it the questions of a curious child or the teary confessions of a frustrated spouse — the BlackBerry, I have learned, comes first.

Visit From the Grandkids?

My fear is that it has the potential to irrevocably change relationships through the power of distraction, teaching those we love that they are somehow less important than the annoying buzz of a digital device.

I'm picturing myself 40 years from now in a home for the aged. There are no visits from the children or grandchildren, only digital messages with abbreviated words and a screen capture, so I know what they look like.

Even on the screen, they're not making eye contact. They're too busy sending and receiving new messages that are apparently more important than the one in which they are presently engaged.

You can call me crazy, ridiculous or prehistoric in my loathing for the "Nuisance." But answer me this: If the BlackBerry has its users in such a stranglehold today, what does that bode for tomorrow?

Me, well, I have my eye on that tall glass of water.


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