Alert
Close

Top the Treasure Hunt leaderboard by 5 p.m. Friday to win a $100 gift card! Learn more

Bits & Bytes
Poll

Most Popular
Articles

Viewed

Your World

Smartphone Nation

Technology Innovation

— C.J. Burton

Smartphones bring multitasking to a whole new level—and to whole new arenas. “People are in some moment but they are not in the moment,” says New York psychologist Stacey Rosenfeld. “Etiquette has somewhat been thrown out the window.”

Michael Sick, 56, of San Diego, admits to texting while talking. But his job requires him to be in constant contact with clients, and thanks to the iPhone, he’s not tied to a desk. He says he can be out and about, and if he has to take a second to respond to something, he can jump right back into the conversation once he’s done. Plus, it’s the only way he’d ever know what his kids were up to.

“I’ve got four kids. If I send them a text, they’ll respond 10 times quicker than they’ll respond to a voice mail,” Sick says. Another benefit: He can also log on to Facebook to see what his kids are doing through their posts.

For older adults like Sick, connection is often a job requirement. “Older people are trying to stay in the workforce longer, so I think smartphones create a feeling of security that they are not falling behind with technology,” says psychiatrist Scott Bea of the Cleveland Clinic.

Sneaking work into idle minutes can aid productivity, says Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Minutes: You Have More Time Than You Think. “But smartphones are a time suck if they distract you from projects that are actually far more important to you, like finishing a work project or even spending some quiet time thinking,” she says. “They’re good if you use them to send a quick note to your grandkids while waiting in line or look up ingredients in a recipe while running errands.”

But if you’re not paying attention to cars whizzing by, or are updating your Facebook status rather than paying attention to your conversation, you’re definitely not living in the moment. And that bothers psychologists.

Says Golden Gate University’s Yarrow, “You have to live a good part of your life fully engaged with your surroundings, and most particularly with other people, in order to feel the most alive.”

Smartphones can also mask insecurity about being alone. “People use their iPhone like a binky,” says Yarrow. “It’s like, ‘Nobody is paying attention to me, I can always interact with this thing.’ ” The downside of that, she says, is becoming less able to relate to people.

So the next time you’re sitting alone in a dentist’s office or waiting for a friend at a restaurant, don’t dive into the virtual world. Take in the surroundings. Engage the waiter in small talk. Breathe deeply.

“Connections are the fuel of life, the core component of happiness,” Yarrow says. “We need to be connected to other people, even if it’s just looking at the person that’s ringing up your groceries while she’s doing it, instead of staring at your iPhone. That’s meaningful.”

Cynthia Ramnarace writes about health and families from New York.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Technology
Resources

Social Networking

Step-by-step instructions on how to use some of the Web's most popular networking sites. Go

 

How to Use Your PC

Guides covering everything from setting up your desktop, to getting the most out of Excel. Go

 

Protect Your Digital Life

Keep your computer secure, your web surfing safe, and your inbox spam free with these tips. Go

Discounts & Benefits

Geek Squad Computing

Members save on Geek Squad services with Geek Squad® Tech Support & Guidance for AARP® Members.

AARP Discounts on ADT Companion Services

Members get 20% off NEW installation and activation of ADT® Personal Emergency Response System.

AARP Discounts on Consumer Cellular Phones and Plans

Members save 5% on monthly service and usage charges with Consumer Cellular.

Member Benefits

Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change. Join Today

Being Social

Featured
Groups

computer questions and tips

Computer Questions & Tips

Pick up some handy how-tos from this savvy group of techies. Discuss

 

Freebies Group

Favorite Websites & Freebies

Share your top sites for interesting information, helpful resources — and free stuff! Discuss