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Trending: How We Live in a Digital World

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textingAllison Robertino doesn’t even have a traditional alarm clock. The 19-year-old Stamford resident instead relies on the buzzer on her iPhone to rouse her in the morning.

That’s pretty typical for people in her age bracket, according to a new study commissioned by Facebook, which found that 54 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 use their phones as alarm clocks.

The study found that a total of 89 percent of Robertino’s peers reach for their phones within the first 15 minutes after waking up. And it’s not just the millennials; 79 percent of Americans across age brackets grab their phone in the first few minutes of their day.

Phones, and Smartphones in particular, are becoming more and more ubiquitous in everyday life across age ranges, economic levels, races and states.

On a recent Monday afternoon, eight of the 14 shoppers sprawled across the stairs located in the central atrium at Stamford Town Center were using their phones – nine if you count the reporter in their midst. Robertino, a student at Norwalk Community College and waitress at a steakhouse in Darien, was among the crowd, as she sat on the bottom set of stairs, killing time by fiddling around with her iPhone as she waited to pick up a new pair of glasses. She texted her dad to let him know she would be home late.

With all the technology at her fingertips – a phone that can help her determine what the weather is like outside, fill her in on which shampoo is the best to buy for her hair type, and even access the NCC app should she have a school-related questions – it seems weird to bring the phone to her ear.

“No one really makes phone calls anymore,” she said. “If it’s important I’ll call someone – usually my parents – but usually, it’s just casual texting.”

On average, people surveyed in the Facebook study spent a total of 132 minutes communicating on their phones. But 84 percent of that time was through text, email and social media. Only 16 percent – or roughly 21 minutes – was on phone calls. At the end of the day, smartphones act more like pocketsized computers than phones.

Especially here in Connecticut, where they are so much a part of daily life. According to a report published by the U.S. Census Bureau in May, Connecticut is one of the most highly connected states in the nation, with 32.6 percent of residents able to have internet access both at home and in other locations from multiple devices, tying the state with New Jersey for the sixth most highly connected state in the nation. Colorado is the most highly connected state overall, with 35. 8 percent of residents having such access as of 2011, the most recent data that the Bureau was able to review.

Nationally, an average of 27.0 percent of people are labeled as having a high connectivity, and the rate dips all the way down to a low of 17.2 percent in West Virginia, where a whopping 21.5 percent of residents report having no computer in their household and no internet connection anywhere; that rate is 10.1 percent here in Connecticut, significantly lower than the 15.9 percent national average.

These days, people are more connected than ever before, and the days of computers belonging solely to the privileged or intellectually elite seem as far in the past as the days of churning butter and fetching well water.

In 2011, 75.6 percent of households across the nation had a computer, up from 61.8 percent in 2003 and a measly 8.2 percent back in 1984. Similarly, internet use at home climbed to 71.7 percent, up from 61.8 percent in 2003 and 18 percent in 1997, which was the first year the census bureau surveyed internet access.

For residents like Robertino, who got her first phone when she was 15, navigating life through her thumbs thanks to her phone is as natural as walking or riding a bike.

“When we have our phones, we don’t realize how much we use it, but when we don’t have it, it’s like ‘How am I going to do this?’” she said, noting that on the rare occasions when she’s left her phone at home on her way to work, she will turn her car around and head back for it.

“It’s just a certain need to have it. In case there’s an emergency, and also because you need something to do if you’re bored,” she said.

maggie.gordon@scni.com; 203-964-2229; http://twitter.com/MagEGordon; http://facebook.com/TrendingWithMaggieGordon

Maggie Gordon

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