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Reporter's wife: Blackberry stole my husband


Today, I wrote a story about people -- mostly men -- who find that their smartphones are often more stimulating than the real world. My wife, Megan Wollman-Rosenwald, was so moved by the piece that she decided to respond (and please leave us your smartphone stories and experiences on the comment boards at the bottom of this page):

While reading this story, I was amazed: While my husband, the author, interviewed all of these people who live their lives via their smartphones, he could have easily written the story in first person, without interviewing a single subject. I believe he may be the single biggest offender of this new digital age. It does make me feel better that at least I am not alone, but the smartphone problem has often been a big issue in our house. My husband does not go anywhere or do anything without his phone. He must constantly be accessible, and when his phone dings with a message, he needs to immediately read it and respond, regardless of what we are doing. The other day, he was playing catch with our son and ding, he got a message. While our son called his name because he wanted to throw the ball back to him, my husband was too engrossed in whatever message he had received to respond to our 2 1/2 year old.

Sadly, I see how this feels much too often. While eating dinner, watching TV together, lying in bed at night, I have often wondered if he might pay more attention to me if I texted him instead of actually talking. There is a positive side, though. I know if I need to reach him when we are not together that he will respond to me fairly quickly -- as long as I type my question to him.
It is a bit of a blow to the ego, thinking that whatever is on his phone is more interesting to him that I am. I have often wanted and threatened to do physical damage to his phone. It is almost like he is having an affair with his phone -- but I have to watch!

I can understand the desire to see what new messages are popping in your inbox -- I have my own smartphone as well. But it would be nice to have some cell phone-free times when we could actually talk to each other and I wouldn't have to compete with a sleek little phone with a shiny screen. My only concern, though, is: Would we still have things to actually talk about?

Tell us your smartphone stories--Have you lost a relative or friend to the allure of the portable virtual world? Are you one of the people described in Mike Rosenwald's story or Megan Rosenwald's piece above? Tell us how you got that way and whether you see any way out...or whether you're happy with how you've changed. Your comments and stories are welcome on the comment board below--scroll down to the bottom of this page to leave your comment, or send us your thoughts by email at storylab@washpost.com

By Michael S. Rosenwald  | February 21, 2010; 9:56 PM ET
Categories:  More on the story, The Blowback, The inside story  
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Comments

When the electric light came into widespread use, some were obsessed with the new technology, turning the switch on and off (switches at the time were rotary and turned instead of flipped) for amusement. Eventually, the novelty wore off, people grew bored with the new technology, and turned the switch only when necessary. The same thing will happen with smartphones.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | February 22, 2010 4:35 AM | Report abuse

I recently heard about a rubber
blow-up sex doll who was also
able to communicate with her
mouth and was programmed to respond to the old man's every wish !!!

My question. Will these smart artificial life devices replace marriage ??

Posted by: flyersout | February 22, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

This appears to be identical to the commercial retail etiquette problem of waiting in line for a cashier or customer service person, beginning to interact with them, and then, in effect, being put "on hold" (in person) as the customer service rep gets a phone call, takes the call, and then chooses to prioritize that conversation, perhaps at some length, while ignoring the live customer.

Just because smartphone users are being obnoxious in the same way in their private lives, rather than while serving customers, does not make this behavior polite or acceptable. Perhaps someone who has this bad habit, which is hardly "cutting edge" or impressive, just rude, could imagine standing in that customer service line at an ordinary retail outlet and being treated the same way. Their anger at the obvious disrespect of such behavior on others' parts could be used to correct their own boorishness.

If they can't fix their behavior, though, we are in a new area of quasi-addiction and neurosis. To fix issues on that level, the Blackberry should go in the trash.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | February 22, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Only the two of you can change this. The rule should be that with the exception of the extreme case of waiting for word from the hospital or some other such known emergency, there are no cellphones, no computers, no tv during dinner or when playing with children. When interacting with each other, people have to be completely present. None of us is so important to the world that they can't give their attention to the family. But only you and he can decide this. And anyone who can't make such a commitment ought to think about another kind of relationship because this family thing is clearly not important enough.

Posted by: bakerdev | February 22, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

My only comment is have your significant violator put their phone on silent after 8pm and not check their phone. Their customers/audience need to have an expectation of response time that is reasonable. However, some people have the luxury of working from home or have flex hours whose only price to pay is to be on call. So do you want your violator to be mentally at the office or physically?

Posted by: masterfix | February 22, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Toss the ball with your son for as long as he wishes. You'll be glad you did. My favorite childhood memories surround baseball fields and golf courses where my dad and I had uninterrupted time. My worst memories surround those times when it was clear something or someone was more important to him. Research of those late in life shows strong evidence that what most of us regret is not spending time with family.

Posted by: richmondreader | February 22, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Cell phones and TV are banned during breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is the house policy that if it is not an emergency, then it can wait. If it's an emergency, then they should have called instead of texting. Since I also teach, before the students enter the room, their cell phones are collected at the door and returned after class.

Posted by: docchari | February 22, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

It's not limited to 30-somethings... I'm almost 70 and addicted to my devices, although my contacts are limited because many of my friends don't even know how to text. I do have a friend my age who has an iPhone. She bugs the hell out of me because she's constantly on it while we're out to dinner, checking email, answering texts, or showing everyone around wonderful pictures of her adorable grandchildren! Then she tells me to put my BlackBerry away because I'm being rude. This is the digital age! I don't see this behavior changing, I see it becoming more endemic, and it's up to the individuals to monitor and limit their use to give priority to those around them. Our business environment doesn't make it easy either, because everyone has to be at work 24/7, especially in the global economy. As with any technological advances, it has to settle in, but I believe being "plugged in" is a fundamental change in our society; it's up to us to learn how to use it effectively.

Posted by: maxinea | February 22, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

i'm one of these people, and was actually thinking about this over the weekend. i prefer to text people as opposed to talk on the phone. it's got to the point that i don't communicate with people unless i can text them.

i realized that a part of it is multi-tasking. i don't like to be on a phone call for 30 minutes with the hellos and goodbyes and sometimes awkward communication. texting allows me to communicate and still do something else, like watch tv or sometimes some not so great things, like drive....

as with all technology, it does some good, but also needs to be controlled to limit the bad....

Posted by: kmgdc | February 22, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse


It seems that the new generation coming of age would rather talk to their friends with their thumbs. Will this help with their social skills in years to come?

The constant texting is disengaging at best and rude at worst. There's nothing going on that can't be taken care of with a five minute phone call instead of 15 minutes of texting.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | February 22, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

This article is so well written that I just had to sign-up & sign-in to tell you so. And being 52 without a computer @ home, and minimal technical skills, that was no easy feat. The I T guy @ work helped me twice.

I find your perspective and experience to be truthful and witty. My favorite retort is the comment on texting your husband while lying in bed. (A little bit of if Mohammed won't come to the mountain--bring the mountain to Mohammed going on there.) That is hilarious. No advice here -- just seems like you're a good sport. Thanks for the levity.

Posted by: labrendan | February 22, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

As one who seldom uses my cell phone esp with my recent retirement, it is both frustrating and comical at times to see the driver driving around a crowded parking lot looking for the empty while still conversing on their cell phone. Think of how many men - the author's spouse may be one - who wears his cell phone in the fancy leather belt case, or has the ear monitor "just in case they receive the call." Recently at the Wholefoods store in Silver Spring an older woman was parking in the middle of a parking lot lane with the cell phone to her ear and her lap top open on her lap against the steering wheel. Nevertheless, the hardest to accept is the driver on his or her cell phone in the midst of traffic congestion and veering in and out of traffic without use of their turn signals as their cell phone is being held in that hand. It is such an obcession with too many people these days with the end result being either the extreme anxiety or depressed state they enter into if a phone is lost or their service goes down. Thankfully my wife and I are most compatable when it comes to such addictions to cell phone use - we seldom use still preferring to communicate face to face as communication was meant to be at least for the benefit of one's marriage.

Posted by: davidmswyahoocom | February 22, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I admit there are a few really practical uses of smart phones.

At a recent party, a lot of my friends had discreet text messages from the babysitters - a quick look at their screen and they knew not to worry.

On a cross country trip, my husband's iPhone came in handy with a really good traffic app (we picked the right way through Chicagoland 30 minutes before hitting it), and a weather app (to see when we were going to get hit by severe thunderstorms and could get off the road ahead of time).

I really don't get the whole concept of interacting with people and stopping to play on your cell phone. My father is a doctor, and he only does that kind of thing when he's on call. If you want to be conversing with the person on your cell phone, then why did you go out with the other person anyway?

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | February 22, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I have the same problem with my husband, but limiting cell phone use as suggested by other commenters is out of the question as my husband's small business is on call 24/7 to provide tech support. if he's not helping clients or talking to his business associates, some of whom keep strange hours, then he's configuring his phone or else he's on his computer downloading more tools for his devices. he looks at his phone more than he looks at me or our kids. i feel just like the author's wife when she said it is like my husband is having an affair, but i have to watch it happen!

knowing that my husband is not the only one with this problem brings me little comfort. i feel so lonely all the time.

Posted by: b0rderlander | February 24, 2010 6:23 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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