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Tech Leaders Admit Smartphone Addiction Is a Problem


Execs at major media and tech companies, like Twitter and Tumblr, talk about how they deal with their own digital dependence.

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David Hayes, of Tumblr, says that he often goes weeks without his smartphone, something he calls going "back into the wild."

David Hayes, of Tumblr, says that he often goes weeks without his smartphone, something he calls going “back into the wild.”

The potentially destructive pull of smartphones and other WiFi-connected gadgets is becoming impossible to ignore, even to those who make a living in digital media. At the Digital Life Design technology conference in Munich this week, high-level technocrats like Arianna Huffington and execs at Twitter and Tumblr talked about how they deal with their own digital dependence, by ditching their phones… at least for a few hours.

Philosopher Luc de Brabandere, an adviser to consulting firm BCG, posed the question to conference attendees: “Is technology making us stupid?” Some believe that it is. If we “remain hyper-connected, it will make us much less wise,” said Huffington.

“Things tend to go overboard at some point. I think that’s where we are at the moment with new technologies,” said Thorsten Dirks, CEO of a German telecommunications company. “We are making ourselves dependent in many ways. Everyone has to find their own way of handling that.”

Individuals at the conference weighed in on the various ways they are “handling” it. Timotheus Hoettges, executive officer at Telefonica Deutschland Holding AG, said he took a “digital timeout” by attending the conference with zero devices. Props! David Hayes, head of creative strategy at Tumblr, said he sometimes takes weeks off his smartphone, which he describes as going “back into the wild.” Twitter’s Chief of Data Chris Moody said he goes tech-free when he’s snowboarding.

Unsurprisingly, no one at the conference was in favor of complete abstinence—and many pointed out how the benefits of these technologies can outweigh the potential problems. “I think storing things in the cloud makes us smarter because we have all this data accessible all the time,” said Dennis Woodside, the Chief Operating Officer at Dropbox Inc.

By 2020, 90% of the world’s population over the age of six will have a cell phone, according to one report. So, we’d better hope it does make us smarter.