Unplug & Recharge//

Phone-Obsessed? See How You Stack Up Against Trump, Pope Francis, and Others

On the spectrum of Pope Francis to Donal Trump, where do your phone habits fit?

Image courtesy of Unsplash

A look at the phone habits of some of the world’s most influential people.

We live in an age when the term “phone-obsessed” verges on losing its meaning. Many of us find ourselves spending more and more time tapping that screen — or for those who yearn for a simpler time, pressing those buttons. Nielsen reported last year that the 81% of American adults with smartphones spend an average of one hour and 39 minutes each day consuming media on these devices. And that doesn’t account for calls and texting. No doubt compounding our screen-centric culture are the nearly 7 in 10 Americans on social media, according to Pew Research. With this in mind, I set about taking stock of the phone habits of leaders and other celebrities.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump is famous for, among a vast array of other things, his obsession with screens. Not only does he spend a great deal of time watching cable TV news, the Donald loves him some smartphone. An old Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone, that is, in addition to his Secret Service-approved device. In just the last 30 days, the Trumpster tweeted an average of 7 times per day. Trump cannot seem to put the phone down, even opting to talk nuclear strategy at Mar-A-Lago around the club’s other guests. Trump also possesses a deep appreciation for land lines. In a January interview with The New York Times, Trump said of the White House phones, “These are the most beautiful phones I’ve ever used… The words just explode in the air.”

Bill Gates
As someone who’s not adequately described by the phrase “tech mogul”, Bill Gates seems like the perfect candidate for phone fixation. However, Bill has developed a reputation in the industry for not being reachable by phone. What about his private life? Well, we know when his daughter was younger, he limited her to 45 minutes of computer time each day. Bill also put in place a household policy dictating that his kids were not to receive cell phones until age 13. If his attitude toward his kids’ technology use translates to his own principles, it seems that Bill has a more restrained approach to phone use than one might expect.

Kim Kardashian
Anyone with regular interaction with the outside world knows that Kim Kardashian takes phone use to the next level. Her mobile mania lies mainly in one area: Selfies. In 2015, Kim herself admitted that her selfie-taking is “ridiculous”, noting that she made her first foray into selfie-land at the age of five. On a 2016 vacation in Mexico, she took 1,500 selfies per day.

Lin-Manuel Miranda
The Broadway star, writer, composer, [insert accolade here] is a big fan of turning everything off. His Twitter bio reads, “turn off the notifications. seriously. it’s a lot, the whole thing. I love you.” In January, Miranda told The New York Times’ Jane Brody, “The good idea comes in the moment of rest. It comes in the shower. It comes when you’re doodling or playing trains with your son.” If that leaves any doubt in your mind, see Miranda’s anti-texting PSA here.

Warren Buffett
You might think Warren Buffett, investment guru and one of the world’s wealthiest people, would feel the need to be plugged in around the clock. But you’d be wrong. Noted for his usage of a flip phone, Buffett eschews modern technological norms. In an interview with Piers Morgan, the investor revealed he’s only sent one email in his life and that he doesn’t throw anything away until he’s had it for “20 or 25 years”. Famous for living in his same old house and driving the same old car, Buffett makes a habit of having no computer on his desk and limiting his phone usage.

Michelle Obama
Barack Obama told Jimmy Fallon in 2016 that Michelle’s got three phones. If that’s still the case, she certainly has more time to use them since exiting the White House. But despite having three phones, Michelle (and Barack) were reported to have instituted strict rules for their daughters; Malia Obama wasn’t permitted to have a phone until she turned 12 and the Obamas monitored their daughters’ computer and TV usage closely. So while Michelle may or may not exercise restraint when it comes to her own technology reliance, it’s clear that she appreciates the importance of “time off”.

Mark Zuckerberg
You would probably be inclined to give the Facebook founder and CEO a pass if he were always on his phone. And that seems to be the case. In a 2010 Facebook post, Zuckerberg said that he had four chargers to keep his phone ready at all times.

Pope Francis
Deemed the “Cold Call Pope”, the pontiff has been known to directly call his followers. The Pope is also said to be a heavy phone user. Nonetheless, he has been an outspoken critic of excessive phone usage. In multiple addresses, the Pope has advocated for putting the phone down at the dinner table and remarked that, “We need to lower the volume a bit and we need to talk less and listen more.”


Even when it comes to some of the world’s busiest people, there exists a spectrum. Be aware, though, that research shows smartphone use can be linked to anxiety, depression, sleep issues, and a host of other problems. So whether you’re a Trumpian phone addict or a Pope Francis-esque hardliner, make sure to unplug every so often and appreciate the world behind the screen.

Originally published at medium.com

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