In the iBathroom

By Ellison, Jesse | Newsweek, September 24, 2012 | Go to article overview

In the iBathroom


Ellison, Jesse, Newsweek


Byline: Jesse Ellison

Technology's awkward invasion of the lavatory.

The unveiling of the newest Apple iPhone was greeted with typical fervor last week. The slimmest ever, it can be taken anywhere--including to the bathroom, where, statistically, you probably will use it.

In January, a marketing firm found that three quarters of people with cellphones admit to using them in the bathroom. One quarter say they don't go to the bathroom without theirs. Technology on the toilet is "the hot topic in bathroom etiquette these days," according to Michael T. Sykes, a computational biologist who as a graduate student started a website called the International Center for Bathroom Etiquette, an Emily Post for the potty of sorts, whose tagline reads "performing #1 and #2 in comfort and style since 1995." Our devices--including not just phones but tablets and e-readers and even our laptops--have, it seems, replaced printed matter when it comes to the bathroom, too.

The problem is that they're not as disposable. Newspapers get chucked out, but tablets get passed around, brought to meetings, and even taken to bed. Phones get held up to our faces and placed on the dinner table. A 2011 study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that one in six cellphones tested positive for traces of, er, bathroom activity. …

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