Blackberry Addiction

What Is Blackberry Addiction?

The term "Blackberry addiction" refers to a form of compulsive behavior created by the advent of the once-popular mobile device. The term was popularized in the early 2000s, when people were believed to be addicted to their smartphones and felt compelled to check them on a regular basis.

The Blackberry, which was the high-status dominant mobile phone during that period, gave people access to their emails, contacts, along with a phone and text connection at the touch of a finger.

Today, while Blackberry addiction is far less prevalent, people can still be thought of as "addicted" to their iOS or Android phones and mobile devices.

Key Takeaways

  • Blackberry addiction was an early form of tech addiction seen in the early 21st century.
  • Blackberries became associated with users' compulsion to keep the phone with them at all times and ignore their environment.
  • The discourse around tech addiction in the late 2010s and 2020s has shifted from the device (the "crackberry") to the social media platform.

Understanding Blackberry Addiction

The Blackberry was created by Research in Motion, a Canadian technology, software, and cybersecurity company. The very first device—the Blackberry 850—was introduced to the world as a two-way pager in 1999. Three years later, the company released one of the world's first smartphones.

The Blackberry 5810 connected users to the internet and provided instant access to emails and a phone. Enhanced by its full keyboard at the bottom of the device, the device gained popularity on a global scale, primarily among executives, politicians, and celebrities. At one point, the company sold more than 50 million devices annually, taking 50% of the U.S. and 20% of the global mobile phone market. Blackberry phones also had a feature called Blackberry Messenger. The service, which was introduced in 2005, allowed users to send each other instant messages across the globe on a secure network.

This rise in popularity was a blessing to the both company and its shareholders. But it also became so problematic for users that the handsets were derisively called "crackberries" in reference to the highly addictive drug. Because many professionals in business and nonprofessional users relied on their Blackberry devices to remain connected while away from their computers. People would compulsively check their Blackberry devices. Because the technology was new and a set of social conventions around mobile telephone use hadn't had time to develop, they would check them in wildly inappropriate places.

It isn't unusual for people to keep mobile phones on them at all times, checking their devices from the moment they wake up in the morning to the moment they go to sleep at night. But the phenomenon was new in the mid-aughts, and Blackberry was the recognizable face of it. In 2008, Sheraton Hotels surveyed 6,500 traveling executives, and the results showed 80% of respondents checked their email first thing in the morning and 84% said looking at their Blackberry was the last thing they did at night. Disturbingly, 35% said they would choose their device over their spouse.

Research in Motion changed its name to Blackberry in 2013 and now trades under the ticker symbol BB.

Special Considerations

The overuse of mobile phones can have negative effects on the social and psychological well-being of those afflicted. The addiction can put users in physical danger if it leads them to text or use their smartphones while driving or when navigating through hazardous areas. At any given moment in the U.S., hundreds of thousands of drivers use cell phones or electronic devices while driving. Distracted driving leads to a large number of accidents and other issues, and many of these can be contributed at least partially to the overuse of mobile phones.

Interacting with a device can keep users up late or otherwise interfere with normal sleep patterns. Overuse of a smartphone can negatively impact the time spent with friends or family and can distract users from finishing work in a timely fashion. Device addiction can cause an increase in rudeness in social situations when smartphone users elect to scroll through their phones instead of making eye contact and interacting directly with the person or people in front of them.

Some scholars have criticized the methods used to measure tech addiction, but the general trend at the end of the 2010s was toward building awareness about tech addiction, particularly in children, and developing digital hygiene. In 2017, France gave workers the right to ignore digital communications outside of work, and in 2018 they banned smartphones in schools. According to a 2019 Los Angeles Times report, tech detox coaches charged up to $700 per session while retreats like Camp No Counselors offered a phone-free experience for adults starting at $125 a day.

Article Sources
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  1. BBC News. "The rise and fall of the Blackberry in popular culture." Accessed Aug. 12, 2021.

  2. Harvard Business School, Digital Initiative. "The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again?) of BlackBerry." Accessed Aug. 12, 2021.

  3. The Verge. "BlackBerry Messenger dies today, but it’ll never truly be gone." Accessed Aug. 12, 2021.

  4. Martin Trautschold, Kevin Michaluk, and Gary Mazo. "Crackberry: True Tales of BlackBerry Use and Abuse," Page 63. Apress, 2010.

  5. Blackberry. "Research In Motion Changes Its Name to BlackBerry." Accessed Aug. 12, 2021.

  6. NHTSA. "Distracted Driving." Accessed Aug. 12, 2021.

  7. Science Alert. "There's a Major Flaw in How We Look at Smartphone "Addiction", Says New Study." Accessed Aug. 12, 2021.

  8. Forbes. "The Truth About Smartphone Addiction, And How To Beat It." Accessed Aug. 12, 2021.

  9. Los Angeles Times. "We know phones are bad for us. Now, ‘digital detox’ is a business model." Accessed Aug. 12, 2021.

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