True confessions: How people really feel about their smartphones and social media

Admit it, you’re really into your smartphone.

The young, the old, the middle-aged — everybody uses one. And most use social media. It’s just the way of the world these days.

But we’re not all of the same when it comes to how and why we use these things. There’s lots of variation among age groups, as we learned recently from talking to nearly 20 people around San Diego County.

Here’s a list of who we talked to, what we asked them, and what they said. The text has been edited for space and clarity.

Some of it may surprise you.

Minert: I find that on Instagram you get the most attention between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. I’ll get in bed and post the Photo-of-the Day. Sometimes, I’m falling asleep as I’m hash-tagging. I wake up in the morning and there’s all these comments. If I post it in the morning or the middle of the day, it doesn’t get as much attention.

Avenius: Ben and I are married. We sleep with (our phones) on the bed or within a cozy, under-the-covers grab.

Reading the news (in bed) has become the new Sunday morning Times. It’s a morning ritual to get on our phones and share articles. It’s that quintessential image of the couple reading the paper. Instead, it’s us scrolling through Facebook or going through feeds on our phone.

Buchholz: I think there’s a tension between how long the charging cord is and where you sleep. She has this cord that is like 8-feet long. I have this like 2-foot cord so I have to be closer (to the outlet) than she is.

Buchholz: Today, I cut my lunch short because my battery went under 25-percent. Sometimes, my phone will shut off when it gets under 20-percent. I go, “I’ve got to get a Lyft home, so I’ve got to go home now.”

Avenius: He and I were going to meet for lunch and he went home because his battery was dying.

Richard: I use my phone to fall asleep. I play games like Ruzzle. You know Ruzzle? You have letters and you need to make a lot of words. I like to play French card games. Or I listen to music or stories. I ended up falling asleep with my ear buds in my ears.

Avenius: (The phone) has totally changed my work hours.

There’s a big gap between about 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., when people go home, spend time with the kids, eat dinner. Then (things) ramp up again about 8, 8:30 and go on until about midnight. It picks up again when people start waking at 4:30 or 5.

I know when I wake up in the morning the first thing I do is look at my phone.

Minert: Email anxiety is a real thing. You open up the email app and it starts to download all of these messages and this anxiety starts. I get hundreds of emails a day. There’s no way I can possibly get to them all.

Buchholz: I have to open every email that comes in. I can’t stand seeing the little red dot there.

Avenius: It’s the Midwesterner in him.

Dixon: I think that there’s medication for that (laughs).

Q: Is there anything that has happened to you involving your phone or tablet that was weird or different?

Richard: Other than getting the black eye because the phone fell on my head?

Q: That happened to you?

Richard: Well, I didn’t have the black eye. But it did fall on my head. I’ve gotten the phone in the face.

Q: What other stories do you have about these devices?

Minert: I have an 8 year-old. He has one of our old devices. It just has wi-fi, so it’s not a phone. He’ll call me on FaceTime at the end of the day when he’s waiting for me to pick him up.

Mom, where are you? Where are you?

Do we need that? Or is it better to just have him wait? Learn patience. I’ll get there when I get there. You FaceTiming me isn’t going to change that.

I love it when I see the little ring (on the phone) and its my son and his face is like this close. It’s not a weird thing, it’s interesting. I asked the other parents, “What age do your kids actually get a phone?” It was seventh grade, then it went to fifth. It’s fourth of third grade now.

Q: When do you give kids phones?

Avenius: I don’t know. Two?

Minert: I’m not talking about a phone with a legit phone number …

Avenius: Once they start going to school, most kids are getting phones in case there is an emergency.

When Siri first came out, my friend’s kid, who was 5, used it to plan a breakfast party at her grandma’s house. I was supposed to bring fruit and my dog. (The child) had assignments for everybody. She could use Siri to call us. We all showed up at her grandma’s house assuming that other parents knew (they’d been invited). But no one knew.

Dixon: At what age do you give a child a phone? Well, at any age when they begin to manipulate (the buttons) and create their own world with that little physical thing. The notion that a phone is a singular engagement where I pick it up to call someone is very, very different for the current generation of young kids. To them, it’s a toy.

Minert: Where do you draw the line? That’s the struggle I have. I see (situations) where the phones are literally babysitters. The kids are having a tantrum and the parents are trying to manage it, so it’s, “Here.”

Buchholz: My sister has three young daughters. The youngest one’s first sentence was,“My iPhone.”

Dixon: Not mamma, not dadda?

Buchholz: Words came out. But the first sentence was, “My iPhone.”

Q: Let’s go back to first grade. How much information did you have as a first grader compared to what a first grader gets today?

Minert: If your parent’s had an encyclopedia set they were lucky. We didn’t. We couldn’t afford that big old set of books.

Richard: My kids are eight and 10. I’m trying to do a good job at educating them about what to use and what not to use, and I see them being super independent in their learning process.

Q: Let’s talk about your house spying on you. Do you worry that there will be so many sensors that they are recording every movement in our life?

Dixon: We are constantly grieving the loss of ourselves. We used to have a sense of who we are. We had a sense of privacy. We had some sense of being able to control our destiny. Those choices have been taken from us. We’re grieving the loss of identity without knowing what the new identity is. We are not forming it. It is forming us. The computer intersects you, you’re not intersecting it.

Q: Have you ever had a moment with your phone of your iPad that just stopped you emotionally?

Minert: For me it’s daily with our current political climate. I see things that bring me to tears, bring me to anger, whatever. People are posting everything, whether its video, whether its an article. It’s information overload.

Dixon: I saw a be-heading on some news station. I think that shocked me because I knew that happened. But to see it, and the casualness with which it occurred, was sobering. It’s one thing to know it. It’s another thing to see it, virtually, in real time.

Avenius: I come from a big family. I’m one of seven. Everyone in my family has kids. We live all over the world. There’s something really awesome about getting on FaceTime and knowing all my nieces and nephews, and their habits.

My dad does storytime at night with all of the grandkids. They sit down, they read a book together, the kids know him by name, they know his face. He gets to be a daily part of their lives. That kind of stops me; The connectivity of it is pretty amazing.

Richard. I remember being here at Bella Vista (cafe) when the incident in Nice occurred. (A terrorist used a huge truck to kill more than 80 people.) On the spot we cancelled (a planned gathering) and were stuck on our phones following the events. All of the bad news, now, you just follow it live with your devices.

Dixon: I don’t think the world is any worse than it used to be. I think we’re hearing it in real-time. It used to take a week, a month. Now, we hear about it all at once. We get the worst in real-time, and we get the best in real-time.

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