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Dear wife: Yes, my Blackberry is a problem

Washington Post reporter Michael Rosenwald's story Sunday about people who are choosing the online life made possible by smartphones over the physical reality of their families and friends led his wife to write a post here on Story Lab outing her husband as a perfect example of the phenomenon he was writing about.
The two debated each other on CNBC Monday--see the video here--and today, Mike offers a response to his wife's post:

Dear Megan,

I hate saying this, as you well know, but you are right. The problems you described with my Blackberry use, in your blog post responding to my smartphone story, are dead on.

I do ignore the splendid parts of life -- throwing a ball with our son, for instance -- in favor of responding to the latest ping on the Blackberry. I suppose ignore is the wrong word, now that I think about it. What's the right word? I don't know. I'm distracted? Snoozing? Ignore is too strong. I'm there. I'm not ignoring anyone. (Trust me: I can ignore with the best of 'em.) I'm just taking a quick, you know, break.

I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses for my digital distance. But writing the story, and reading much criticism (playful, mostly) from readers about said digital distance, has caused me to ponder solutions. What to do? Blow up the Blackberry? Not going to happen. Very dangerous. Get a regular phone, with no smart functions? Nope. I think the best idea came from Dan Caccavaro, the editor of Express, the Washington Post's free daily. He sent me this note:

I have a 9-month-old daughter and recently caught myself feeding her breakfast with one hand while checking my Blackberry with the other. That was kind of a wake up call, but your piece really drove the point home. When I got home from work last night, I shut the thing off and kept it off until about 9 this morning, when I actually needed to check it for work. It wasn’t easy, but I hope it was a first small step on my road to recovery.

Dan is a brave man, turning that thing off. I'm not willing to go that far. Not yet. I like baby steps more. So here's what I'll do: After 6:30 p.m., the Blackberry will leave the living room, where we are presumably playing with Sammy or watching TV or a movie or reading or talking or whatever. I'll put it on mute. I'll put it in the kitchen. And I'll try to ignore it. Or at least ignore it most of the time. Or some of the time. I'll look at it less, how's that? Okay? I promise to try. And other smartphone addicts who are reading this letter: You should try too. I'll report back. And I hope you do too.


P.S. Where's my charger?

By Michael S. Rosenwald  | February 24, 2010; 9:55 AM ET
Categories:  More on the story, The Blowback, The inside story  
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