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Remember, It's Just A Battery-Operated Device-- It's Not Love

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Image via Gawker
Yesterday’s Week in Review paid homage to Silent Tuesday with a piece on the apparent drug du jour and your crippling, crippling addiction to it: the BlackBerry. It’s not meth, but according to the Times, that doesn’t mean it won’t cause tooth decay—or worse. The findings are somewhat stunning (made all the more compelling by the Singles allusions), and there’s a generous sprinkling of quotes by MD’s and PhD’s and DDS’s but we felt it was missing a little authenticity. You know, that feeling that the article was not only extensively researched but partially written on the floor of an inner-city meth lab CrackBerry den; we just didn’t sense that. So we—you—are going to do the dirty work the Times couldn’t. What follows are a few questions we think could’ve really helped shine just a bit more light on the epidemic. Sendus your answers and this afternoon (tomorrow morning, whenever), we’ll reprint the best (we’ll also send them to NYT writer, Matt Ritchel, because he may want to do a follow-up). And because we know you kids sometimes need incentives, there will be a special treat for the top three respondents, as determined by us. We’re not asking you to shoot up, but if that helps the creative process, don’t let us (or your company’s provincial house rules) stand in the way.

Experts who study computer use say the stated yearning to stay abreast of things may mask more visceral and powerful needs, as many self-aware users themselves will attest. Seductive, nearly inescapable needs.

Describe the moment at which you first looked lovingly into the screen of your BlackBerry and realized, this is real.

This behavior is then fueled by powerful social motivators. Interaction with a device delivering data gives a feeling of validation, inclusion and desirability. (It’s no fun to be the only un-pinged person in the room.)

Describe what it’s like—or what it would be like—to be the only BlackBerry-less person in a room full of people clicking away at their chosen validator? How does it make you feel? Like a social outcast? Like a pariah? Like a Jew? What, if any, segregation exists between devotees of the BlackBerry and those of the Treo? Does that little nub on the end of the latter scream “lower caste”?

…participation gives people a sense of belonging, one traceable to the atavistic desire to congregate and cooperate for safety and survival. In addition, he said, the constant checking is an exercise in optimism, like being an explorer or a gambler. Eternal hope delivered in tiny bits while you’re on the go.

Is the ritual of checking for a new message on your BlackBerry most like: atavistic desire to congregate
b.cooperation for safety and survival exercise in optimism
d.human sacrifice
e.all of the above

“Drug addicts don’t think; they just start moving. Like moving for your BlackBerry.”

When was the last time you woke up completely naked on the floor of the bathroom at Marquee, with four or five BlackBerries—none of which were your own—splayed around your body?

“I’d rather reach for the BlackBerry than reach for bread or dessert and put some high-cholesterol item in my mouth,” he said.

How many times have you put your BlackBerry in your mouth?

But on a deeper level, Mr. Averitt said he found a frustrating, even counterproductive, psychological fixation. And one that he sometimes has to satisfy in secret.

What do you do in secret with your BlackBerry?

Users talk of phantom urges, like (no kidding) the feeling of a hip vibrating, as if to suggest a belt-hooked BlackBerry is buzzing when, in fact, the person is the shower. Others hear a beep in the night, say from outdoors or an alarm clock, and reach for the device.
“It’s like Pavlov’s dog,” Mr. Averitt said.

It Don’t Mean a Thing if You Ain’t Got That Ping