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Are you shackled to your iPhone?

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By: Larry P. Johnson

According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population is around 324 million, and the number of smartphone users in the U.S. (according to The Statistics Portal) is estimated to reach 222.9 million by the end of 2017, with the number of smartphone users worldwide forecast to exceed 2 billion users by then.

Apparently once we get them, we can’t live without them. University of Maryland researchers report that a majority of students in the 10 countries they studied experienced distress when they tried to go without their devices for 24 hours. One in three admitted they’d rather give up sex than smartphones.

It’s not just having them, it’s how much time we spend using them. In her book, “The Power of Off,” New York psychotherapist Nancy Colier writes, “People now check their smartphones up to 150 times per day, or every six minutes, and young adults are sending as many as 110 text messages per day.”

There are dangers. Distracted drivers talking or texting on their cellphones. People walking down the street with eyes on their phones, bumping into other people or crossing busy intersections without looking. The National Highway Safety Council reports there has been an increase in pedestrian accident fatalities and says that one of the causes can be attributed to “distracted walking.”

I have a friend I greatly admire. You send him an email or text message, any time of day or night, weekend or holiday, and he responds within 10 minutes. I genuinely appreciate his prompt responses. But I wonder, is he ever without his phone? Does he take it to bed? To the bathroom? Inside church?

How often is a special moment or conversation interrupted by signals from your smartphone you find impossible to ignore? Check out this scene. A couple goes to an expensive restaurant for a romantic dinner. Even before they glance at the menu, they check their smartphones for text messages, emails and social network announcements. Too often, technology has made us slaves of the very devices that were supposed to free us, give us more time to experience life and be with the people we love. Ms. Colier writes, “It’s connections to other human beings, not digital ones, that nourish us and make us feel like we count. Our presence, our full attention is the most important thing we can give each other.”

Can I break my addiction? I woke up on recent morning, got dressed and ready to go to my 9:30 a.m. class. I grabbed my cellphone and … oh no! It wouldn’t turn on. I know it had an 80 percent battery charge last night. Didn’t it? I connected the charger and waited. And waited. Finally, the screen came alive. Five percent battery charge, it said. What am I to do? I have to leave, but my iPhone? Shall I leave it behind. Can I go somewhere, without it? Shall I just carry it in my pocket for security like Linus keeps his blanket close by. No, I will go cold turkey. I went without my cellphone for two whole hours — and I survived. Perhaps you can, too. And that’s how I see it.

Larry P. Johnson is an author and motivational speaker. You can contact him at larjo1@prodigy.net or visit his website at http://www.mexicobytouch.com. Larry will be at the Twig Book Shop on Pearl Parkway from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. today to offer readings and sign copies of his six books.

Copyright 2010 San Antonio Express-News

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