While BlackBerry users may believe the device impacts their life positively, those around them do not, says a new Ryerson University study.


BlackBerry users herald the work-life balance the device helps them achieve while their friends and family want to smash the thing into itty bitty pieces, says a new study headed by a Ryerson University associate professor and Canada research chair.

Catherine Middleton headed the study that followed hundreds of newspaper articles relating to BlackBerry use and found while most users adamantly believed the device had impacted their lives in strongly positive ways, the people around them — family members, friends and co-workers — overwhelmingly had a much different response.

“They want to throw it out the window. They want to dump it in the lake. There’s such a visceral response to this device. People say, ‘It helps me balance my life,’ but the family’s response is, ‘As soon as you have your BlackBerry with you, you’re checking out,’” Middleton said.

BlackBerries and similar devices, which let users check and send e-mail silently by typing on a micro-sized keyboard, have exploded in popularity in recent years, particularly in the business world.

“I think the attraction is pretty obvious. These devices certainly make it easier for people to manage work in a variety of places, and they provide users with an extra level of control. They do pretty much work anywhere,” Middleton said.

Middleton says it’s exactly that effectiveness and portability that makes devices like BlackBerries so overused.

“It’s so easy to use that it gets used in places you would never have used it before. You wouldn’t pull out a laptop at a Valentine’s Day dinner, but it happens with BlackBerries all the time,” Middleton said.

Besides the dreaded V-Day faux pas, Middleton’s research showed a shocking array of inappropriate places people have complained of BlackBerry use: weddings, funerals, and even — gasp! — during amorous moments in the bedroom. It would seem some users like to stay on top of their business in more ways than one.

The most jarring example Middleton found was of a male user who was on vacation with his family in Cape Cod, Mass., out of reach of BlackBerry service signals. The determined dad drove to the nearest airport and begged a flight attendant to take his BlackBerry on her next return flight, turn the device on to download his messages, and give it back to him when she flew back several hours later. He told her he’d wait.

Despite the results of her study, Middleton remains positive about how BlackBerries and similar devices are permeating our social landscape — she just hopes people realize the little toys don’t have to own their lives.

“They do have OFF buttons — I’m not sure everybody knows that!”