How’d we live without cellphones?

They have become increasingly important to our everyday lives

Bruce Spotleson

Bruce Spotleson

If it seemed tough to put away the cellphone over the holidays, you weren’t alone. Under oath, many of us would plead guilty as charged.

Now owned by more than 80 percent of American adults — a third of whom pack “smart” phones with connectivity — our mobile devices today command a central role in our lives.

In fact, data recently released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project show just how much a part of our daily activities our phones have become. Tell me if any of this behavior sounds familiar:

• Pew reported that 2 out of 3 cellphone owners admitted to checking for messages even when their phone hadn’t rung or vibrated.

• Although a good number of the 2,000 respondents had landlines, about half of the cellphone owners polled reported sleeping with their phones next to their bed so they wouldn’t miss any calls or text messages during the night.

Still, even though so many cellphone owners seem to be on constant alert, almost 40 percent reported that people they know have complained when they haven’t responded promptly to phone calls or text messages.

It makes sense, then, that 24 percent of cellphone owners say the worst thing about ownership is that they are constantly available. And 29 percent feel they must turn off their phones periodically just to catch a break.

As for connectivity, half of all cellphone owners say they’ve used their phone at least once to get information fast. A quarter said they have had trouble doing something because their phone wasn’t handy.

Many of the results confirm things we already knew. For example, two-thirds of owners say their phone has made it easier to stay in touch with people they care about, more than 40 percent use their phone for entertainment when they are bored, and 26 percent said their phone makes it easier to be productive while sitting in traffic or waiting in line. Another 40 percent said their phone helped in an emergency situation.

Apparently, cellphones also can function as a deterrent to communication: Pew reported that 13 percent of owners have pretended to be using their phones in order to avoid interacting with people around them.

Given all this, it is a small wonder that almost a third of owners say their cellphone is “something they can’t imagine living without.”

Thankfully, most of us don’t worry about such things; only 11 percent of cellphone owners say they’re concerned about spending too much time with their phones.

That’s good news because, after all, who needs more guilt during the holidays?