Smartphones: Personal Assistant or Leash?

Admittedly, I wasn't always the person who had to have the latest, greatest technology. In fact, I didn't even have a touch screen phone until about one year ago. Before that, I had an older version Blackberry provided by my employer. It didn't have very many features other than the ability to check my e-mail... Which brings me to the question of the day. Are smartphones making us more efficient or just tying us to our jobs at any given moment?

With a phone like the one I just described, I felt more obligated to check work e-mail after hours because it was there and it was convenient. I couldn't do much else with the phone besides maybe managing my calendar, so it was not making me more efficient in any other way. From my interactions with people, it sounds like most boomers have this type of phone and feel like it is a leash.

Once I entered into the realm of access to the entire internet and "apps", I felt like my phone was my friend and personal assistant, not something that was making me work when I didn't want to. Another confession: if you were to observe me, I probably look like I am using my phone at any given moment. I use it while I am walking down the street, I use it at restaurants, and anytime I am standing in a line waiting for something, you better bet I am looking down at my phone! Does this make me anti-social? I try to keep my smartphone usage to a minimum when I have the possibility to engage with a human instead.

This is why I love it. In particular, the cases where I am waiting for something and wouldn't otherwise be doing anything else, I feel productive. I can jump on Twitter and re-tweet good content. I can view my Facebook news feed and comment on a friend's status update. I can search for someone I just met on LinkedIn and invite them to join my network. Aren't these all of the things that most people are struggling to find the time to do? If one of these sites leads you to an article on the web, you can read it immediately, or share it to an app like Evernote and read it later on your PC if you want.

Now, here's what I love about the phone I purchased this weekend, which is one of the newest Android phones, the Verizon HTC Thunderbolt. All of my social networks are synced together with my contact list. Now, the contact list on my phone will show me your phone number, Facebook status update, e-mail, LinkedIn, and Twitter information. Don't freak out. I can only see this information if we are already connected, if I already had the information or if you made it public on those profiles. I love having all of that information in one place.

Did you have a reaction when I said I use my smartphone in restaurants? I enjoy using location based services like Foursquare, Facebook Places or SCVNGR to "check-in" to places I am visiting. Sometimes, I choose to publish the information to Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes, I just check-in to play the game. Typically, I am sharing this information as a social tool because I am checking-in the people who are with me. I also use the app for Yelp so I can write a review for a place that was really good or really bad. I also use the apps to find a place to eat, make reservations, look up sustainable seafood options or decide which movie theater to go to based on what is playing after dinner.

You could also use a smartphone to play games or watch videos. Maybe that is how you would rather spend your down time. There is definitely value in that: a well deserved mental break. Let me know what kind of phone you have and whether it makes you feel more efficient or like you are on a leash.


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