Q&A: Why Arianna Huffington Needs Her Four (!) BlackBerrys


Arianna Huffington BlackBerry

Is there a bigger BlackBerry superfan than media mogul, Arianna Huffington? The author, businesswoman and cultural maven, who debuted as an official BlackBerry spokesperson this week, is famous for carrying 4 BlackBerry devices (including, I can confirm, the latest BlackBerry 10 devices such as the Z10 and Q10) around with her all of the time to give her that edge in productivity. While I didn’t get a chance to speak to our latest public endorser – read about Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment’s CEO, Tim Leiweke – I was able to create a virtual Q&A from her public comments about BlackBerry over the years, with the teensiest amount of editing (check out the links in the footnotes yourself).

Greetings from Team BlackBerry! So, tell us about your love of BlackBerrys and devotion to the little red light. It’s OK. There’s a circle of trust here.

I don’t just carry a BlackBerry, I’m addicted to BlackBerrys. Anyone who knows me well…or even barely knows me…will attest to my profound attachment to my BlackBerrys. Indeed, the fact that there is an s at the end of that last sentence speaks volumes.

What do you love most about your BlackBerrys?

I type a lot on my BlackBerry. I really use it. I don’t use it just to take pictures and download things, I use it for work.

But you do carry an iPhone, no?

I have an iPhone. I have four BlackBerrys. Two BlackBerrys are for daily use. The purple is for email, editing, and looking at headlines, the red is for phone calls. The third is a backup. And no one but my daughters have the number of the fourth. That’s the only one that stays on overnight.

And you seem quite attached, almost passionate, about your BlackBerry devices.

From the moment we were introduced, we became close. Inseparable. Too close, some suggested. Friends began to whisper that the relationship was taking up more and more of my time, energy and focus.

But I didn’t realize how intense things had gotten until my constant companion was lost at sea and the grief set in. I was boarding a boat and my BlackBerry was tucked into my shoulder bag. A shoulder bag with a small snap. A small snap that came open. A soft splash drew my attention. And I watched my BlackBerry sink into the sea.

That must’ve been rough.

The finality was absolute. It wasn’t as if I’d misplaced it and, after tacking up flyers and putting out a household-wide APB (All Pursue BlackBerry), would eventually track it down.

Sure, I had closure, but closure of the worst kind. I actually thought about diving in after it, but knew that even if I managed to rescue it, it would be worthless.

Have you suffered other BlackBerry-related mishaps?

Even worse was a very painful wake-up call I had in April of 2007. I’d just taken my daughter on a tour of colleges. The rule my daughter had laid down for the trip was no BlackBerrying during the day for me. So, I stayed up late each night catching up on work. The morning after we returned, I woke up to find myself lying on the floor of my home office in a pool of blood. I had collapsed from exhaustion and lack of sleep. On my way down, my head had hit the corner of my desk, cutting my eye and breaking my cheekbone.

While you still publicly espouse your love of BlackBerrys, you’ve also started talking more frankly about the downsides of your “addiction.”

It’s true. One of the traits I most deplore in myself is the tendency to miss the moment by being distracted, mostly by technology. I’ve been outed by a yoga teacher for checking my BlackBerry during yoga, though I no longer do that!

A photographer also caught me looking at my BlackBerry during a fashion show several years ago!

The only good to come from losing my BlackBerry in the ocean was that it finally brought me face to face with my addiction – the reality brought home by the response of my friends, who all suddenly started treating me as if I’d suffered a major loss.

“How are you doing without it?” asked one in a tone usually reserved for funerals and ugly divorces. “I’m so proud of you,” said another, gently stroking my shoulder. “You seem to be holding up better than I thought you would.”

A third was incredulous. “No way it fell out of your bag. Impossible. You were holding it. You’re always holding it. You never let that thing out of your hands,” he said with a vehemence that spoke of his pent-up frustration.

And that’s when it hit me. If my friends assumed that losing a small electronic device would devastate me – or couldn’t picture me without it in my hands – I must really have it bad.

So what changes are you making to bring more balance to your life?

I have made many fundamental changes. The first one was going from four to five hours of sleep a night to seven to eight hours of sleep a night. That has made a huge difference. Also, I start my day with meditation. My bedroom is now a device-free zone. I never take my iPhone or my BlackBerrys to my bed, or even to my nightstand.

In your book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, you suggest that people should “unplug and recharge” in order to boost their productivity and live better.

There are many different ways to unplug. I decided to do something radical and take a weeklong unplugging challenge with [Glamour magazine editor-in-chief] Cindi Leive and [MSNBC co-host] Mika Brzezinski, which meant no social media, and limiting myself to two email check-ins a day with our HuffPost editors. Instead of being constantly connected, I spent Christmas in Hawaii with my daughters, my sister, and my ex-husband, not photographing beautiful sunsets, not tweeting pictures of my dinner, and skipping Throwback Thursday on Instagram in favor of, you know, just talking about things that happened in the past, and being immersed in things happening right now.

How was it?

Almost immediately, I was floored by the realization of just how much my phones had become almost physical extensions of myself. During the week, I was constantly reaching for my phone out of habit. Sort of like a phantom limb, only in my case it was a phantom BlackBerry.

The above is a collection of public quotes editorialized into a Q&A. Links to original articles here:

About Eric Lai

I have written about technology and mobility for Computerworld, ZDNet, Forbes and others. I continue to track and opine about the latest news and trends in enterprise mobility for BlackBerry. Follow me on Twitter (ericylai)

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