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Joel Klebanoff: Stuff & Nonsense

To worry is to be. To be is to worry.

Smartphone Obsessed

For a period of about two years, which ended five or six years ago, I wrote a weekly column of allegedly humorous rants about the use and abuse of digital technologies. Some people say that I wrote the columns weakly, not weekly, but ignore them. Only literate people say that.

The publisher of the online information technology trade publication where the columns appeared also had a book division that published the first year’s worth of columns in a book, BYTE-ing Satire, which is still available (or at least it was at time of writing). Here’s a shameless plug:

United States


You can read the rants that didn’t make it into the book by clicking here.

After two years, I cut back to writing the column semimonthly for about six months. I then resigned from writing it when I finally ran out of things to rant about. However, I am now ready to launch into at least one more digital technology tirade.

I went to my health club a couple of days ago. Considering how adverse I am to gym-going, that was momentous enough to be worthy of note, but that’s not what I want to talk about.

After a vigorous workout, I took a shower, as I’m legally required to do. I sweat profusely even while exercising leisurely. After a strenuous workout my noxious body odor is horrific enough to get me arrested as a public nuisance—a nuisance that extends for a 30-block radius. Consequently, a shower is mandatory. But, never mind. That’s not what I want to talk about either.

This incident occurred on a weekend. Because my gym is in the basement of one of Toronto’s downtown office towers, most of its members are office workers who come in during the workweek. As a result, it’s not usually busy on the weekend. Last weekend was no exception.

On this particularly quiet day, there was only one other guy in the shower room when I got there. Alright, now we’re getting to what I wanted to talk about, but get your mind out of the gutter. It’s not that.

When I arrived, he had already showered up, but he had not yet toweled down. Instead of getting right to the drying portion of the shower ritual, he, naked and with his smartphone in hand, was busy texting. I kid you not.

To say I’m a little self-conscious about my plump body is like saying absolute zero is a tad cold. The thought of getting naked in front of a guy with a camera-enabled device made me nervous. I was not at all eager to find my flabby parts or my dangly part displayed openly on the World Wide Web.

However, under the circumstances, this didn’t bother me too much. He was texting the whole time. I didn’t get a close enough look to determine the make and model of his smartphone, so I don’t know if it had a backward-facing camera, a forward-facing camera or both, but it didn’t matter. While texting, a backward-facing camera would have been pointed at his feet and any protruding parts of his body. And a forward-facing camera would have captured an image of his still-dripping face.

As soon as he finished typing, he put his smartphone back in its presumably waterproof case, placed it on a shelf in the shower room, and toweled off.

I was under a shower head on the other side of the room and never in the line of sight of any camera on his smartphone. So, despite being uncomfortable, my anger at this intrusion was mild.

What really bothered me, even though it had nothing to do with me, was summed up in what I said to him when he finished texting: “Now that’s the definition of obsessed right there.”

He protested, “No. I’m waiting for a text from my son to tell me when to pick up the Chinese food. But, yes, I probably use it too much.”

I’m sorry folks, but it takes maybe five minutes to have a quick shower and then dry yourself off if you don’t waste time texting. If you can’t wait five minutes to go somewhere where you aren’t among naked people—a bathroom stall would suffice if you are desperate—before you pull out your camera-enabled, Internet-connected smartphone and start texting then, there are no two ways about it, you are obsessed.

If this is you, your loved ones should perform an intervention because that’s just plain sick.

Of course, this is just one sign of smartphone-obsession. If you don’t go to the gym, or you don’t shower at the gym, you need to be aware of other indicators of this possible mental health problem. As a public service, here, in no particular order, is my list of the top ten signs that you have a serious addiction to your smartphone.

If you have done any of the following, seek professional help immediately:

  1. As noted above, you feel compelled to send and/or receive text messages in a public shower.
  2. When you are about to be wheeled into surgery for a quadruple bypass, you ask them to wait because you are expecting an important email.
  3. You you keep your mobile phone beside you and answer all incoming calls and messages while making love.
  4. You research and worry more about your mobile voice and data plan than your health insurance plan. (This indicator isn’t as effective here in Canada as it is in our neighbor to the south. We have universal, tax-funded health insurance. We have to worry about our healthcare coverage only when we travel outside of Canada, which leaves us much more time to obsess over our phone costs.)
  5. You remember the mobile phone number, landline phone number, and email addresses of all of your family, friends and colleagues, but you can’t remember a single one of their birthdays and often forget their names.
  6. You refuse to toss a ball to your child because you don’t have an app for that.
  7. You reject as a friend anyone who can’t or won’t send or receive text messages. (If so, you aren’t a friend of mine. I hate text messaging. I received one spam text message and I immediately called my phone company and told them to block the feature on my phone.)
  8. You have a nonrefundable, non-changeable ticket for the trip of a lifetime, which you’ve been planning for years. But you miss your flight because when you got to the airport you realized that you forgot your cell phone and you went back home to retrieve it. (Admittedly, this is not likely. If you’re that addicted to your phone, you’ve probably had it surgically implanted.)
  9. You and a good friend, whom you haven’t seen for several months, go to great lengths to get together at a pub, but you spend the whole time talking on the phone and texting with other people. (Unless your friend was busy doing the same thing, I’d wager that you have one less friend now.)
  10. While on vacation, you inadvertently end up in a dangerous part of a city that you aren’t familiar with. An adult male who is probably less than half your age and who is in much better shape than you grabs your iPhone and makes off with it.??

    You are unarmed and you have no idea if the thief is armed. The thief has a sidekick who held you from behind while your phone was stolen. And, for all you know, the thief might have other accomplices as well. Nonetheless, you run after the thief like a madman and try—successfully, as it turns out—to recover your stupid phone.??

    OK, that was me. But I’m cured now.

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Categorised as: technology


  1. AJ says:

    Man, I thought I was bad since my phone is everything from an organizer to a game system to a telephone, but all of those are just terrible. What makes them worse is they’re not that farfetched, I see people doing some of them on a regular basis. We have to come up with some kind of social etiquette regarding smartphones.

    • “We have to come up with some kind of social etiquette regarding smartphones.” I agree. I might do that in a future blog post.

      Actually, I thought I had already done that in one of my rant columns, but I couldn’t find it. I sometimes compose stuff in my head, drop it for some reason (usually because I can’t bring it to a conclusion), and then I forget that I didn’t write it and assume I did. That may have been the case here.

      I should get into the habit of writing down everything in my head. Fortunately, I’m a shallow person so that won’t keep me very busy.

  2. Janene says:

    Ha ha! Good tips, Joel. And, yes, that guy was definitely obsessed.

  3. When I started reading this, I was worried I’d find myself on your list. Whew, I’m safe. I never thought I’d be interested in a smartphone, but damn if I don’t love mine. I don’t do public showers (bought a home gym for just that purpose), but I have trained myself to equate the “droid” sound of my phone to be “it can wait” while I’m driving or doing anything important, which can vary from changing a diaper to just not wanting to get off my duff when I’m watching a show/crocheting and the phone droids on my desk two feet away. Closest one to me is #5 but I don’t remember phone numbers/addresses (’cause they’re all stored on my phone) but I do remember birthdays and names. Go figure.

    As for texting during sex, I don’t even answer the phone. That’s what voicemail’s for.

    Assuming I ever have sex again.

    • You have a much healthier relationship with your smartphone than a great many other people. I see way too many folks who seem to be a slave to their phones rather than the other way around.

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