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Columnist headcut photos Credit: Amanda Suarez , Amanda Suarez

Klout thinks I’m average.

In 2008, a startup company named Klout began measuring peoples’ “influence” by tracking their presence on various social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. Influence is reported as a number between one and 100 and users with higher scores qualify for “perks” or free prizes from various companies, who hope that the influential individuals will then spread the word about their products. The underlying logic dictates that a strong social media presence translates to real-world influence on others.

Lady Gaga’s Klout score is 93, while President Obama’s is 99. Mine is a mere 50 — on a good day.

Klout leads us to believe that tweeting more, receiving more wall posts or photo comments on Facebook or getting more “likes” on Instagram photos are good things. I think Klout has it backwards — perhaps having a high influence score is a bad thing. I have dozens of friends that tweet and update their Facebook status and Instagram photos so often that I’m convinced they can’t possibly be apart from their phones and laptops for more than a few minutes a day. Their lives revolve around sharing every moment — even the uneventful ones — with their “friends” and followers.

Dare I say that social media is taking over our lives? Personally, I am sick of sitting down to lunch with a friend and watching her check in to the restaurant on Foursquare, Instagram a photo of her entree, tweet about how cute the waiter is and then Snapchat a photo of herself to her five closest camp friends — ultimately paying more attention to her iPhone than to me.

Countless researchers and psychologists explain this behavior by suggesting that smartphones are physically addicting. Perhaps the most striking conclusion comes from author Martin Lindstrom. In 2011, Lindstrom conducted an experiment in which subjects were exposed to sounds and videos of an iPhone ringing while he monitored their brain activity. As it turns out, the area of the brain that was activated by the iPhone stimuli is the same part of the brain that controls feelings of love and compassion.

Lindstrom concluded that we aren’t addicted to our iPhones per se — rather, we literally love them, as we would a spouse or parent.

It’s ironic that while trying to virtually connect with our friends, we actually disconnect from people by ignoring those around us in favor of a palm-sized gadget. I recently heard the term “iPhone widow,” which describes people who feel abandoned by loved ones who prioritize their phones over their companions.

A recent Stanford University study found that almost one-third of the surveyed students described their iPhones as a “doorway into the world” and 41 percent said losing their iPhones would be tragic.

Unfortunately, I think this trend is fairly irreversible. We have posted, liked, tweeted and uploaded ourselves into an inextricable web of virtual connectivity.

Although I’ll probably never be able to completely divorce my iPhone-soulmate, we’re going through a trial separation right now. We’re sleeping in separate rooms and trying to give each other more space during the day. I forgot that it’s possible to read the newspaper without an app or make it through a 50-minute lecture without surreptitiously checking my texts — and remember, my Klout score is only in the upper 40’s.

Decreasing our emphasis on our iPhones means there’s a lot less riding on our palm-sized pals and a lot more face time (not to be confused with FaceTime) for our animate acquaintances.

Of course, disconnecting is easier said than done, but there are small steps you can start to take. The next time you go out to dinner with friends, stack your phones in a pile. The first person to check a text or answer a call has to do something embarrassing, like sing “Happy Birthday” to a random nearby table. On a day-to-day basis, you could “go paper” and use a physical day planner instead of iCal. Not everything has to “go digital.”

But whatever method you choose, best of luck disconnecting.

Tweet at me to let me know how it goes.

Caroline Brand is a College junior from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. You can email her at or follow her at @CBrand19. “A Brand You Can Trust” usually appears every other Tuesday.

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