We've all heard the expression "BlackBerry Addiction." CrackBerry is a common word nowadays. But more often than not, these terms are used in humorous contexts and not to describe real issues that seriously affect people and their loved ones. For many of us, "quitting" our BlackBerrys or smartphones, or simply leaving them at work once in a while, isn't even a consideration. And that's really not good.
A few things happened this week that got me mulling the subject. First of all, I found myself in a BlackBerry-related skirmish after my girlfriend had to ask-and eventually-tell me to stop @#$%$#@ playing with myself three separate times while we were watching American Gangster. I'm usually good about keeping my smartphone in my pocket or on a distant shelf during non-working hours, but for some reason that night I kept subconsciously picking it up to check mail or my Viigo RSS reader. Not even Denzel and Russell shooting up the celluloid could keep my attention away from my BlackBerry.
Others have jokingly suggested in the past that my affinity for what I've come to think of as my little electronic Swiss Army knife has bloomed into an undesirable habit. ("You'd better be careful with that thing. You don't want to turn into one of those people," my brother warned recently.) But this was the first time it occurred to me that I might have a problem. And you know what They say: If you're asking yourself if you have a problem, you probably do.
Sane Canadians. Crazy Hotels?
Then I came across an article on the website of Canadian television broadcaster CTV about how Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), a government agency, has issued a directive to its employees ordering them to cease BlackBerry use-at least for work purposes-overnight, during weekends and on holidays because they're throwing off staffers' work/life balance. The department's Deputy Minister Richard Fadden also wants to ban the Research In Motion devices from meetings-goodbye BlackBerry buzz. Apparently Ontario's Premier Dalton McGuinty has already barred BlackBerrys from his meetings.
Finally, I received a message on my BlackBerry with the subject line "Sheraton Chicago Cracks Down on Crackberries with BlackBerry Detox Challenge." This immediately piqued my interest, and I decided to speak with the hotel staff about the program. Rick Ueno, general manager of the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers and a "former BlackBerry addict," told me that roughly two years ago he realized his BlackBerry use was getting out of hand. He decided to do something about it.
"If you really get addicted the way I was, it's a problem," Ueno says. "I would wake up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water and have to check my messages. I'd check [the BlackBerry] at traffic lights and everywhere else."
So he decided to retire his device and, in his words, go cold turkey. (Ueno says that's the only way to quit.) It wasn't easy at first, but he soon realized that he could be more productive without a BlackBerry (using his laptop to check for e-mail instead). This way, he spends more face time with customers instead of being tethered to a handheld.
"[The BlackBerry] was stressing me out. I'm a hell of a lot more creative now," Ueno said. "I felt like that's all I used to do, e-mail all day, as opposed to working on customer connections. I feel a lot better without it."
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.