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A Message to My BlackBerry

A message to my BlackBerry: In January, I made a pledge to put you away. Instead, I'm more addicted than ever. How did our relationship become so dysfunctional?
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Dear BlackBerry:

You've embarrassed me, publicly, and rather than just keep it inside I think you should know what you've done. Last January, in these very pages, I made a New Year's resolution -- a public pledge -- that we were through. I said you were a bad habit, destructive, and that the less time I spent with you the better.

But you wouldn't let me go, would you? Your charms are powerful, seductive, and you played them for all they're worth. You're smart and clever. You know my anxieties, my insecurities, and you hit all those buttons until I was vibrating like a tuning fork. You've read your Freud, haven't you? We all hunger to be wanted, to be significant. And that's exactly what you promise. You're always there for me, alive with the expectation of connection.

So now, only a few months after I made it, my vow mocks me. Could it be that I am more addicted to you than ever? I check your screen when I should be doing other things, even when I'm deep in a conversation with someone else. Such is your allure that it justifies my rudeness. I don't care what people think anymore. In fact, I can't think of a single person in my life who has anything good to say about you. They all think we spend too much time together.

How much have I surrendered? I confess that I'm always looking for clever ways to communicate with you so that no one will notice. When someone turns away to locate some papers or to address someone else, I take you in my hand as if the entire world hinges on whatever few words you might have for me. I sometimes wonder if you might even be changing the very way I think -- suppressing my ability to reflect, to ponder, to be deliberative and thoughtful rather than knee-jerk and immediate.

No addict wants to feel alone in his compulsions. So, like any flawed soul, I'm constantly on the lookout for validation in others similarly afflicted. In restaurants, at airports, I seek them out, if only to exchange a knowing nod and a resigned shrug. "You're doomed too," we say silently to one another.

What is it about you? Why are so many so weak in your presence? Is it our need for constant stimulation, the need to be reminded time and again that we exist and that our existence means something, that we aren't alone in the universe? That we're important, necessary, that at every moment someone is thinking of us? How else to account for that thrilling jolt we experience each time you vibrate to life, delivering a fresh message -- even when it's not particularly good news?

But then I have to wonder: Is it really fair for me to assume all of the blame for our dysfunctional relationship? Look at the times we live in. Am I not a victim of these times, of our culture of distraction, our need for constant stimulation?

I know all this is true. And still I cannot put you away. You're exciting, unpredictable, you bring out my spontaneous side. You challenge me to be witty, to think fast, to show off. It's not easy when you're not around. When we're separated -- because I happen to be on a plane or we're having some kind of communications problem -- I have trouble functioning. I'm on edge and frustrated. When we're reunited, I can't wait for you to tell me all the things that I've missed.

Where does this leave us, my BlackBerry? I've come to the realization that you're not evil. You're simply doing what you were put on this earth to do. Perhaps I was wrong to promise that I would give you up. To borrow a phrase, my BlackBerry: It's not you. It's me.

Adam Hanft is founder and CEO of Hanft Unlimited, a Manhattan-based consulting, advertising, and publishing firm.

Last updated: May 1, 2005




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