The Pew Research Center had released a new study describing how Americans use and feel about their phones.

* Of the 64% of Americans who own a smartphone, 10% do not have broadband at home, which means that their smartphone is their sole means for accessing the Internet.

* An additional 15% of smartphone owners say they have a limited amount of alternative ways to go online, so they rely on their smartphones as well.

* 46% said they could not live without their smartphones.

* 70% of Americans associate their phones more with the word "freedom" than with "leash."

* 72% think this tool is "connecting" rather than "distracting."

* 96% think it's "helpful" rather than "annoying."

The Pew Report also has some interesting things to say about the differences between rich and poor smartphone users and the generational gap that exists between users from 18 - 29 years of age and those 50 and older. Youth admitted that they often used their phones to avoid contact with others or to stave off boredom.

According to a separate phone survey, 64% of Americans now own smartphones, up from 58% in early 2014.

The world has adopted smart phones and tablets 10 times faster than it embraced personal computers in the 1980s, twice as fast as it logged into the Internet boom of the 90s, and three times faster than it joined social networks in the new millennium, according to app-tracking firm Flurry.

Millions of Americans now rely on these pocket-sized computers to shop, play, read, date, learn, take photos, and find directions. There are apps to help with most activities of everyday life, including timing meditation sessions or giving people ways to record things they are grateful for. Smartphones, in other words, have become spiritual tools.

One of the 37 key spiritual practices covered extensively at Spirituality & Practice is connections. We write: "You practice connections by consciously tracing the links connecting you with other beings. Any point is a good starting place — your family line, your work, your back yard." It's time to add "smartphones" to that list.

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