airplane phoneYears ago, the only time I unplugged from the world was while 33,000ft high. Flying was a time for making lists, pleasure reading, or even naps. Now, with most flights equipped with WiFi, it’s become a time to catch up on emails or the latest BuzzFeed articles for my kids. And, assuming the regulatory changes working their way through the FAA become a reality, we’ll soon be taking phone calls in flight as well.

So much for unplugging.

But even though it’s possible to stay connected from 5 miles up, should we be? Just because we can do it doesn’t mean we need to. So what’s been the driving force behind being “always on?”

The short answer is, we may not need it, but we sure want it. We’ve become so close to our devices that there’s now medical terms to describe the byproducts. You know that feeling when you think your phone is vibrating and you look down to a dark screen? That’s phantom vibration syndrome.

Some other stats (many of which I believe are lower than actual numbers):

  • 67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.
  • 44% of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls, text messages, or other updates during the night.
  • 29% of cell owners describe their cell phone as “something they can’t imagine living without.”

Technology has been known to come between couples, distract employees from their jobs, and save lives. We’ve become so attached that we even now attribute characteristics of ourselves to our devices. And as electronic extensions of ourselves, we trust that they’ll never do us wrong.

And most of the time they don’t. But when they do, it may be without our knowledge. If someone hacks into my phone via a downloaded app, they don’t send a courtesy text explaining what they just did and thanking me for my hospitality. But they’re in my phone using it for their own purposes and I don’t know it.

I might miss my quiet time some days on those flights, but the fast-paced movement and growth of technology is anything but boring. While we’re attached to our cell phones from the minute we wake up until we fall asleep (maybe with it in hand?), we need to realize it’s not only connected to us, it’s connected to a global network of others-many of whom are not our friends-as well. No matter how smooth the flight seems, you need to stay seated while the fasten seat belt sign remains lit. Likewise, no matter how trustworthy your mobile seems, always remember both the power and dangers inside that hand-held world.