Aug. 23, 2006 — -- The lure of wireless devices is creating an addiction among some e-mail users, with experts comparing their behavior to that of a drug or alcohol abusers.
"I was 100 percent addicted to my BlackBerry," said Rick Ueno, general manager of the Sheraton Chicago.
He runs a 1,200 room hotel and says he used to be on his BlackBerry literally night and day.
"I would actually answer my e-mails at two o'clock in the morning," he said. "I'd be doing e-mails and brushing my teeth."
He would even write e-mails while having dinner with his wife, as she tried talking with him at the table.
While some people may jokingly refer to a BlackBerry as a "crackberry," experts say the potential to develop an addiction to these kinds of communication devices is real, because they can make people feel disconnected, which also happens with alcohol, drug and gambling addictions.
"There's an adrenaline high that people who use technology constantly get from trying to balance the BlackBerry, the cell phone … trying to keep all these balls in the air at the same time," author Bryan Robertson said.
To make time for the gadgets, some users will "give up time with family," Rutgers University School of Business Gayle Porter said. "They'll give up getting together with friends. They'll give up taking care of themselves, getting enough sleep -- things like that."
She's researching a paper that will argue that businesses could be sued by employees who feel they were encouraged or even forced to stay connected 24 hours a day and then developed an addiction to their gadget.
"There's a desire there to want to point fingers at someone else," she said.
In Ueno's case, he's quit his BlackBerry and said he is now sleeping better.
He's also started a program at the Sheraton Chicago to help others take a break from their e-mail. They offer to lock guests gadgets in the hotel safe during their visit, to show them that there is life after e-mail.