Cannon: When smartphones make you stupid

This is an archived article that was published on in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I usually panic this time of year.

I feel summer seeping away and realize I haven't done half the stuff I meant to, so then I try to cram everything into the last few weeks of lingering sunlight.

This year, though? No problem. As some of you may recall, I set My Personal Summer 2013 Activity Bar way, way low. I planned to do two just things and two things only: eat hamburgers (I did) and go to Bees games (same). So high five me! Meeting personal goals is so rewarding, don't you agree?

Anyway, whenever I went to Bees games, I couldn't help but notice how many people were messing around on their smartphones — texting, checking their e-mail, surfing the net. Instead of talking to each other and/or watching the game in real time, they all sat in the Spring Mobile bleachers, glued to their smartphone screens.

This is exactly the kind of behavior I used to decry. Loudly.

Until — you know — I got a smartphone myself. I inherited one when our son bought himself a newer model and handed off his old phone to me.

At first I treated it pretty much the same way I did my dumb phone. I didn't always have it on me. And when I did I forgot to turn it on. In fact, sometimes I went for days without checking for calls or messages.

My kids gave me grief about being unreachable, of course. But I'd always say, "Dudes! When your dad and I moved to Finland in 1985, no one in America knew if we'd arrived safely until they received a handwritten postcard a few weeks later. And guess what. EVERYBODY LIVED."

I didn't see why we all needed such instant access to everything, including each other.

Then one day when I was standing in a line at the grocery store, I pulled out my new smartphone to divert myself, so I didn't have to look at any more magazines with various lesser and greater Kardashians on the covers. (Memo to Kardashians: Ugh! Please just go away!) And as I watched my screen light up, I thought, wow! This is great!

So whenever I was bored from then on, I pulled out the smartphone even though I have always maintained a little bit of boredom is good for people. It challenges us to get all creative.

Before long, however, I wasn't pulling out my smartphone just when I was bored. No. I was pulling it out when I was busy doing other things, like gardening and having lunch with my kids and writing columns.

In fact, if I didn't have my phone with me, I felt naked — like I was in the middle of one of those dreams where you look down while you're giving a book report on Mary Stewart in your eighth grade English class and realize you somehow forgot to put on your clothes before going to school. Except for your socks.

So there you are! Naked in the eighth grade! Except for your socks!

Anyway. It was a quick slide, people. I went from never looking at my phone to needing it on my person. All. The. Time.

But why? A lot of the e-mail I get isn't time-sensitive. And the Internet (I think we can all agree) often resembles Alice's rabbit hole. Also, I am the world's worst texter. It takes me hours to send a garbled text that doesn't make any sense, so why don't I just call later? Seriously, can't most of it wait until later?

Why do I obsessively look at my phone?

That's why I decided to do something last Saturday night that I haven't done all summer. I left my phone home when I went to a Bees game. AND IT WAS AWFUL. I pretty much had the shakes all night.

Withdrawal feels like that.

Which is why I think I should be leaving that phone at home more often and communicating Old School.

What do you think?

Ann Cannon can be reached at or