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December 04, 2005

CrackBerries: Another New York Times Fake Problem!

I like to read the NYT because of their patented Fake Problem Stories, which read like a middlebrow in-print form of Dateline NBC. All these stories follow the same formula:

  1. Description of a few people who have serious problems.
  2. Expansion of the problem, usually involving pseudo-research into the matter.
  3. Inference that the problem is a rapidly spreading complaint that will affect people in Iowa if they don't watch out.

This week's Fake Problem Story involves internet addiction because there's clinics in Washington state and Peoria, IL, that exist solely to pry people's fingers from the keyboard.

The patients ... are what Dr. Cash and other mental health professionals call onlineaholics. They even have a diagnosis: Internet addiction disorder.

These specialists estimate that 6 percent to 10 percent of the approximately 189 million Internet users in this country have a dependency that can be as destructive as alcoholism and drug addiction, and they are rushing to treat it. Yet some in the field remain skeptical that heavy use of the Internet qualifies as a legitimate addiction, and one academic expert called it a fad illness.

Okay, I admit to being crabby when I don't have time to post, but I don't get the DTs if I go a day without being on the computer. I also don't get offline headaches like those I get when I skip my morning cup of tea. If the Internet can be addictive, then sign me up because I haven't suffered withdrawal yet!

Writer Sarah Kershaw might like to convince me that I am in a pronounced state of denial about my condition:

There is at least one inpatient program, at Proctor Hospital in Peoria, Ill., which admits patients to recover from obsessive computer use. Experts there said they see similar signs of withdrawal in those patients as in alcoholics or drug addicts, including profuse sweating, severe anxiety and paranoid symptoms. And the prevalence of other technologies - like BlackBerry wireless e-mail devices, sometimes called CrackBerries because they are considered so addictive; the Treo cellphone-organizer ; and text messaging - has created a more generalized technology addiction, said Rick Zehr, the vice president of addiction and behavioral services at Proctor Hospital.

CrackBerries??? I am a Silicon Valley Baby, I work for an Internet company, and I have never, ever heard the word "CrackBerry." Although I think I might start using it in other contexts: "That guy, Doug, he's such a CrackBerry!"

Hmmm ... you think that the NYT might have a personal interest in getting bloggers off line and back in front of the television set? All those pesky bloggers, they're addicts!

December 4, 2005 | Permalink


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I've heard "CrackBerries", but don't know where. Note that it's intended as praise of the things, because they're so awesome that they're addictive, and not as a complaint.

Posted by: DonBoy | Dec 4, 2005 7:11:16 PM

All over advertising - and for all I know, all over New York generally - they are called "Crack Berries". People who don't have them use it as a reason not to. Watching grown people interrupt lunch to respond to e-mail is a little sad (although they are very very useful). It's also an extension of the whole "put down the crack pipe, Bob" way of making fun of crazy talk ("No more ovetime? Put down the crack pipe, Bob.") that manages to make fun and minimize serious drug addiction... oh whatever. I digress. Calling a humorous tag like "Crackberry" a sign of a true addiction problem shows just how far the phrase has drifted through the lexicon looking glass ("Black Friday" for Crack Berries?), and yes how the Times pulls at any straw to backup a bad trend article. All of which makes you want to tell the Times to put down that crack pipe... :)

Posted by: weboy | Dec 4, 2005 8:15:06 PM

"Crackberry" seems to be more of an East Coast term. I've heard it used in both NYC and DC.

Side note - my purely anecdotal observation is that Treos seem more popular in the West, BlackBerrys in the East.

Oh, and that "internet addiction" thing is bunk.

Posted by: fiat lux | Dec 4, 2005 10:55:45 PM

I'm a BlackBerry administrator here in Texas, and I can assure you that we're all very familiar with the term "CrackBerries". It's usually not the techies who carry BBs, Pepper. It's mostly managers and lawyers, at least where I work.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner | Dec 4, 2005 11:48:01 PM

Yeah, I'll chime in here as well. I first heard the term "CrackBerry" years ago. It's pretty common.

Posted by: Kevin Drum | Dec 4, 2005 11:59:29 PM

Yeah, it's mostly a management thing. My biotech manager dad has one, and we heard the term when he invited some other management type people over for dinner one day.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Dec 5, 2005 12:01:16 AM

They do so love their narratives.

Posted by: TheDeadlyShoe | Dec 5, 2005 2:36:30 PM

Wonkette uses crackberry term all the time.

But yeah, your overall post is great and the NYT's fad problems are probably the most annoying thing about the paper, to me at least. The only way you can write a story like that is if you have never actually met a crack addict or know a home destroyed by alcoholism.

Posted by: Tony Vila | Dec 5, 2005 3:03:03 PM

I work in silicon valley and *have* heard the term "crackberry", from a lawyer friend. I've never heard it in technical circles.

Posted by: aphrael | Dec 5, 2005 3:40:48 PM

I'm surrounded by geeks and yes, I've heard the term many times, usually self-referentially.

Posted by: Sid Fish | Dec 6, 2005 1:54:39 PM

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