You’re out with your family enjoying a baseball game and take a moment to survey the seats around you: The two gentlemen to your left are looking not at the field but down at their laps as they grip a small black device, while a woman to your left has one arm around her young daughter and the other is skillfully thumbing a small wheel on the side of the same ubiquitous gadget.

Such is a typical sight in today’s day and age -- whether it’s at a sporting event, on a commuter train, in a restaurant, mall, or even at a wedding. The almighty BlackBerry communication device from Research in Motion, of Waterloo, Ontario, lets you stay in constant communication with your colleagues, clients, or customers, wherever and whenever.

For the uninitiated, the BlackBerry is a “push” e-mail solution, which means the device vibrates or chimes as new messages arrive in your inbox so you can read and/or reply. This process is more convenient because you don’t have to log on to the Net to “pull” down messages to the handset, as you do on a desktop or laptop computer. It’s also a cell phone, Web browser, and personal organizer; think of it as your office in your pocket.

Because many users say they become dependent on real-time e-mail communication on the go, and because the device is seen being used virtually everywhere, the BlackBerry has been dubbed the “Crackberry.”

But is it really addictive

“The term ‘addiction’ is predominately a tongue-in-cheek compliment about the appeal of the product,” says Mark Guibert, vice president of corporate marketing for Research in Motion. “I don’t know too many people truly addicted -- it’s kind of like being a ‘chocoholic’.”

Guibert says the BlackBerry may give the impression businesspersons are forever tethered to it in public -- in the elevator, on the street, in a taxi. But its appeal lies in the fact you can get a lot more work done with small intermittent moments throughout the day instead of slaving over a PC in the office all in one sitting.

Since entrepreneurs and small-to-medium-sized business owners often wear multiple hats, they need to be reachable by customers or clients, even when they’re out of the office, at home, or at a ballgame with their kids.

Taking BlackBerry on vacation

There are BlackBerry users who go the extreme. They surf the Web with one hand while walking the dog in the morning. Some “relax” with their devices in bed so they can check their e-mail when they feel the vibration before dozing off. And then there are the folks who take their BlackBerry on vacation.

Being connected 24/7 does have its share of drawbacks, according to Michael Gartenberg, research director of client access and technologies at Jupiter Media in Darien, Conn. But instead of looking at the BlackBerry in terms of interrupting one’s social life, he says in reality it’s the other way around. Busy entrepreneurs only have a social life because they can keep connected to work via BlackBerry.

“I don’t think it’s as much of an addiction -- it just reinforces the importance of being connected in today’s world,” says Gartenberg. “It’s because of the BlackBerry they can be present at a social event, which wasn’t possible a few years ago.”

As for taking the BlackBerry to Hawaii or Key West, well, there’s a justification for that. “Personally, I’d rather spend 15 minutes a day on a vacation on my BlackBerry than face 2000 messages in my inbox when I return,” adds Gartnerberg. “Plus, what kind of relaxing vacation will you have knowing e-mails are piling up back at the office?”