Recently, I made fun of a friend for using his BlackBerry during a party. The devices are devilishly addictive, and the term "CrackBerry," used by yet someone else, struck me as particularly apt.
I realized however, that I was actually in denial regarding my own addiction when I walked straight into a glass door in the midst of using my blasted device. I have also realized that there are other effects - I had the experience of being able to recall someone's e-mail address, but not their real name, when I knew them quite well.
The social norms that guide use of these devices have changed. Seeing someone yammering away to themselves on the street is no longer a sign of dementia. Apparently, it is acceptable to wear earphones (or even headphones) when out with one's friends or parents. I recently saw a table at a restaurant where all four people were talking on their cell-phones. One of them spoke on the cell for the whole meal.
I have posted before about electronic disruption of family life, and how television was the end of most conversations over the neighbourly fence. These portable devices are yet another layer insulating us from our fellow citizens, and especially from the natural world. There are many SciFi stories about an eventual rejection of these devices, but I am sceptical - those attitudes will always be at the fringes of society, joining the Luddites and the Unabomber in their historical irrelevance. What is important is how our social contract is affected -or not- by these devices, and not how they help or hinder our lives.
(While typing out this message, I got on the wrong subway line. Sigh.)
...Now, if I could only get some help for my aching thumbs...
Sent from either my Newton2100 or my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld