Smartphone use slowly turning into abuse
We’ve all seen comics of bathroom stalls featuring people poring over newspapers, but the bathroom might actually be a more popular destination for checking Facebook.
A recent study indicates that 75 percent of the population has used a mobile device while on the toilet — an absurd phenomenon The New York Times nicknamed “The Rise of the Toilet Texter.”
Gut reaction? It’s a little gross, but it’s not unheard of. Toilet texting isn’t so much a problem in itself but rather an indicator of a much bigger, more disastrous trend: Americans are too enamored with their mobile devices.
According to a 2011 Pew survey, about 83 percent of Americans own a cell phone, and 43 percent of those owners have smartphones.
The pressure to stay connected constantly is enormous in the business world, leading lots of companies to issue BlackBerrys as part of their employment packages — or it’s expected their hirees own one already.
For college students, the necessity can feel even more overwhelming. Having a smartphone seems like one of the only ways to adequately manage emails, calendars, homework assignments, concert tickets and, of course, friends.
Texting, meanwhile, is a well-established staple of the collegiate life. It is often the default means of quick communication with parents, friends and significant others.
So where does this leave us? Well, for one, smartphones have created a culture of people who can’t handle being separated from their mobile lifelines for three minutes. According to the Pew survey, a quarter of Americans will not go to the bathroom without taking their phones with them.
Even worse are the people who make unnecessary trips to the bathroom at work or school to check their phones outside of scheduled breaks.
What a waste of their own time — it’s not as if they could do anything substantive in a window that narrow, anyway.
The bathroom situation is the tip of the iceberg. More frequently, mobile devices are injected into scenarios where they don’t belong: dates, dinners out, business meetings and class discussions.
Granted, phone etiquette changes based on the formality of the situation: Your friends aren’t likely to object when you look up an actor’s name while hanging out at Ground Zero, or if you answer a call during a walk across campus.
But nothing is more annoying during an intimate conversation or business discussion than the incessant buzzing of someone’s phone, especially when that person insists on seeing what the buzzing is about.
Constantly checking your phone inevitably sends a clear message to the people around you: They are no more interesting than the digital world in your pocket. In many contexts, this comes across as rude. And your disinterest can also make you uninteresting; you become boring when you are only halfway engaged with what’s going on around you.
The emergence of the Toilet Texter, no matter how laughable, remains a warning sign to all of us who are, admittedly, a little bit addicted to our cell phones.
Whether you send 500 text messages a day or read The Times on your Android while waiting for a table at a restaurant, you should always remember there are times and places where mobile devices aren’t welcome.
Whether or not the bathroom is one of them is up to you, but your boss or your girlfriend’s parents might not be so flexible.
Francesca Bessey is a freshman majoring in narrative studies.