In 1996 when the Canadian company, Research in Motion (RiM) created the first BlackBerry device, little did it know how much of a revolution this “piece of technology” was going to ferment. To say the least of this communication uprising, the word “BlackBerry” (Note: Different from “Blackberry”) has been listed as part of the vocabulary in most international dictionaries.
A BlackBerry functions essentially as a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) with all the accompanying capabilities and more importantly with the ability to send and receive (push) internet e-mail via mobile network service.
The first BlackBerry device was introduced in 1999 as a two-way pager. It was not until 2002 that the more commonly known smartphone BlackBerry was released as a convergent device, which supports push e-mail and notifications for social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) mobile telephone, text messaging, internet faxing, web browsing and other wireless information services.
Halt! This is beginning to sound like one of those boring, tawdry reviews for computer/ICT mags, most often put together by a geek (I was beginning to doze off). Dear reader, just stick around as we wade through the nerdy part of this article.
The UK Daily Mail once reported that “BlackBerry email devices can be so addictive that owners may need to be weaned off them with treatment similar to that given to drug users.” This phenomenon often called “BlackBerry Addiction”, a term Investopedia defines as “an over reliance on and almost obsessive need to use one’s BlackBerry” has become a prevalent condition for many professional and non-professional users of the BlackBerry device. In the same vein, Blackberries have been nicknamed “crackberries” because users quickly become hooked on them in the same manner as cocaine (crack) addicts.
Some common symptoms of BlackBberry addiction include constant checking of emails and texts, answering phone calls at inappropriate times and the need to always have the smartphone device within reach.
University of Northampton’s Psychologist Glenn Wilson pointed out that the compulsive need to answer emails led to changing direction often, making people tired and distracted. He even said that the constant flow of emails and text messages was more of a threat to IQ and concentration than marijuana! Others have said that BlackBerry addiction is putting more and more strain on relationships, especially when both partners are fully indulged. Since inception, the BlackBerry has fueled a rise in email and internet addiction, with sufferers able to survive only a few minutes without checking for new mails. The situation is exacerbated with the reaching of online social network groups à la Facebook and Twitter. One key sign of a user being addicted is if they focus on their BlackBerry, totally oblivious of their immediate environment.
In addition, according to experts, BlackBerry smartphones can indeed harm tendons in the thumb and cause some physical (sic) pains to the user. This condition is known as BlackBerry Thumb (BBT). BBT is a type of repetitive strain injury (RSI) caused by the use of the thumb, instead of the fingers, to press buttons on PDAs, smart phones or other mobile devices. However, the BlackBerry is much more demanding than texting on phones as users tend to type out full scale emails.
Beyond the physical pains users experience during usage and the psychological instability (the cannot-do-without feeling) experienced when not in use, socially, the BlackBerry has affected how individuals spend idle/waiting time. What actually obtained when people had to exercise some form of waiting or the other, was that they passed this time by reading printed materials (books, magazines, newspapers, etc.), listening to music or watching moving pictures. What is often seen in recent times is how not a few people are fully devoured as they “blackberry” their time away.
Interestingly, the initial target group of users by the BlackBerry inventors were exclusively, upwardly mobile, busy (or at least, pretending-to-be-busy), always-on-the-move, business executives who always had to keep touch with base. Howbeit, it seemed these elites were not techie enough to latch on or their numbers were not sufficient to make RiM smile to the bank – a baseline for businesses to remain in business. Ergo, the exclusivity barrier was removed. Enter the teeming young adults (students, young professionals, entrepreneurs and the whole spectrum of vernal individuals). This is one group anyone who desires to succeed in business or politics cannot afford to overlook or consider insignificant. Ask John McCain. Oops, I mean Barack Obama. These wittingly recruited young disciples (self-conscious or otherwise) have since helped propagate globally, the “Gospel according to BlackBerry” heralding the “Berrylous” times – a development that has sent shock waves through the spine of world-leading phone makers like Nokia.
Are you part of the ever-growing list of BlackBerry Disciples (I mean, BlackBerry Addicts)? Not too sure? Okay, you can peruse the following list of Top Ten Signs You’re a BlackBerry Addict as blogged by Mark Spoonaeur on laptopmag.com:
Top Ten Signs You’re a BlackBerry Addict
10. After a cross-country flight, you wait for all your new messages to download before you alert loved ones you’re still alive.
9. You try to use BlackBerry keyboard shortcuts in Outlook (No, you can’t hit the spacebar to type “@”).
8. You think the iPhone would be much better if it only had a physical keyboard – and a trackball smackdab in the middle of the touch screen.
7. Your BlackBerry keeps you regular. Go to the bathroom without it and you’d have to “push” on your own.
6. You joined Facebook just so you could try the BlackBerry app. (No friends? The “I have a BlackBerry, I’m out of your league” group has 4,409 members).
5. You’ve learned to drive with your knees.
4. Five or more consecutive vibrating alerts are on par with an orgasm.
3. You swap service outage stories with other “victims”.
2. You’ve completely forgotten that a blackberry is a fruit.
1. You’re reading this on your…
Say what? These indeed are the berrylous times!
Adewale Ajani is a Civil Engineer. He blogs here