I remember sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office as a kid. Between my mother, my sister and myself, we were there at least once every month or so. And I remember always running straight to the magazine table to grab the latest Highlights edition before my sister.
The word finds, spot the difference games and other puzzles were generally enough to keep me occupied until we were called into the back to have to doctor poke and prod our tonsils (my sister and I had a knack for passing strep throat back and forth) or stick us will needles. No matter where I was, I always had something to keep my wildly imaginative mind content. I always had something to entertain me, either in my imagination, some toys I would sneak around in my pocket or a combination of the two.
And while I find myself in the doctor's office far less often, life isn't all that different today. The "toys" I sneak around in my pocket are much more expensive and stay connected to the Internet, and my imagination has been replaced with an online presence that requires constant attention and curation.
No matter where I am or what I'm doing, I (almost) always have a lifeline, something to keep me from being completely and utterly bored. Whether I'm waiting on a friend to meet me somewhere, killing time before a meeting with someone or sitting through agonizingly terrible television commercials, there is always a smartphone within arm's length to keep the boredom subdued.
And I can't help but notice when others do it, too. I can't help but want to peek over their shoulders or look for a reflection to see what they're looking at, to get a peek at what's so important or interesting. It's no different than stretching your neck and straining your eyes to see the name of a book someone across the room is enjoying. A little harmless curiosity.
For example, I have two neighbors at my complex who are constantly standing outside their apartments, leaning on the railing and staring at their smartphones. One guy is just one door down and he'll stand out there for hours just staring into his phone's display. The other guy is the closest unit in the adjacent building. He's out on his deck three or four times a day, for hours at a time, glued to his phone.
I'm not being nosy for the sake of being nosy. I don't care what they're saying on Facebook or to their significant other. I don't care to know what they're typing or the context of what they're reading. I'm solely curious about what they're filling their time with. Are they checking Facebook? Are they watching a movie? Reading the news? Playing a game? What are they doing that's so enveloping? Am I missing out on the endless fun of some game that's under my radar? Is there some do-it-all app I should check out?
When I catch a quick glimpse, it's the usual suspect. Facebook. Turn-based games like Words With Friends or Draw Something are among the more common, too. I also catch the occasional Twitter addict. And those business men are always nose-deep in email.
For some reason, I constantly wonder if people use their smartphones similarly to how I use mine.
My first stop is always Twitter. There's always something happening on Twitter, and I generally get more interaction there anyway. So it's generally my go-to source for entertainment for a long wait or boring evening. I also check Facebook, mainly to clear out those pesky notifications. The third stop for me is clearing out my overflowing inbox. Next I reply to any unattended text messages, then it's off to my Google Reader.
Once I've caught up on all of that and I'm still waiting and bored, I progress to games. Among the top for me right now are Air Supremacy, Doodle Bowl and Super Hexagon on iOS. I just downloaded The Dark Knight Rises on the One X last night, and I'm sure it will get its fair share of play, too.
If I've gone through all of this, I will generally circle back to reading and work on clearing out the never-ending pile of lengthy articles I have saved to my Pocket account. Sometimes I'll start shopping on Amazon for the mountain of various knickknacks I want but don't need.
Tell me, readers. What do you do with your smartphone to kill time? Read an e-book? Catch up on your RSS feed? Watch a movie over Netflix? Play a game. Smartphones are spectacular entertainment tools. How do you use yours?