ABC Finds a New Troubling Addiction: The BlackBerry

     Perhaps it’s a symptom of a strong economy and a high standard of living, but often the media find negative angles to technology that makes our lives, and our work, easier.


     That’s the spin ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson” recently gave about the BlackBerry, the portable email devices made by Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM). The segment likened the little devices to “alcohol, drugs and gambling” in their power to “disconnect” people from other people. But missing from correspondent Dan Harris’s August 23 report: more than three-fourths of the device’s users say the e-mail device has improved the way they balance work and leisure.


     “Finally tonight, the downside of keeping in touch,” anchor Gibson teased the last story for the August 23 newscast. Warning that “these kinds of devices can become electronic leashes,” he introduced a story by Dan Harris on how “for many people, the habit has become an addiction.”


     Harris began with a story on a hotel manager from Chicago who would check his BlackBerry while brushing his teeth or having dinner with his wife. While “BlackBerry addiction is often ridiculed,” “there are some experts who believe that the possibility of getting addicted to communications technology is real, and really dangerous,” Harris warned before featuring “Dr. Bryan Robinson, who treats people with technology addiction.”


     Robinson cautioned that some people “may actually need counseling or a 12-step program such as Workaholics Anonymous.”


     While some BlackBerry users might need counseling to alleviate stress or anxiety, Harris didn’t find anyone to argue that obsessive BlackBerry use is a symptom of being a “workaholic,” not a cause thereof. Indeed, Harris set out to show the e-mail device as a bemusing nuisance to its users.


     “Do you resent your BlackBerry?” Harris asked a man on the street.


      “Every day. Every day,” he replied as Harris laughed.


     But that opinion is in the minority, according to a study released August 24 by executive recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International (NYSE: KFY). On August 25, Reuters picked up on the recent survey which found that “more than three-quarters, or 77 percent of respondents, said they believe mobile communication devices primarily enhance their work/life balance rather than impede it.”  


     “It has helped me manage things without being [at] the office all the time,” Jim Craig, a New York corporate spokesman, told Reuters.