Here's What Our Smartphone Obsession Looks Like ... In 26 Photos

05/07/2014 08:33 am ET | Updated Jul 23, 2015

One in every five people owns a smart phone. That's more than one billion people. Our devices have become an extension of ourselves; they are company in some of the most monumental, meaningful and intimate experiences of our lives. We bring them to the bathroom. We keep them near us while we sleep. We invite them to dinner. We clutch them tightly when we meet the Pope.

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Technology's pervasiveness seems innocuous at first. A five-minute walk with the dog on a nature trail becomes a five-minute window to check email. A couple of scrolls through Instagram while Spike does his thing appears harmless, but we miss the little off-screen moments that make life better and even decrease our stress. (And sleeping with your phones is just a bad idea.)

We're only getting more hooked. Over the past half-decade, smartphone use has increased exponentially. Our reliance on these device has evolved too. Data in a 2012 report produced by the Pew Research Center revealed that 29 percent of American cell phone owners describe their phones as "something they can't imagine living without."

The way we experience all aspects of life -- from the mundane moments to the momentous -- has been changed. Our relationship with phones is a complicated one: They come with us everywhere we go, but they often lead us to be lonely or alone. They record every moment of our lives, but they pull us from living in those moments. We have yet to master the perfect balance of phone as an accessory and phone as a life source. The series of photos below illustrate the juxtaposition of life before phones were a continuation of our social identities and the unromantic present, where they seem to be just that.

President Bill Clinton leaves the White House, 1994
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Photo: AP

President Barack Obama speaks at the Women's History Month reception at the White House, 2013
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Photo: Getty

Passengers ride the subway, 1970
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Photo: Getty

Passengers ride the subway, 2014
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Photo: Getty

Pope John Paul II visits St. Peter's Square in Rome, 1983
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Photo: Getty

Pope Francis visits Guidonia Montecelio near Rome, March 2014
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Photo: Getty

A woman walks a dog, 1923
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Photo: Getty

A woman walks a dog, 2014
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Photo: Getty

Girls catch sight of The Beatles, Los Angeles, 1964
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Photo: AP

Girls catch sight of One Direction, London, 2013
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Photo: Getty

A group of women shares a meal, 1930
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Photo: Getty

A group of women shares a meal, 2013
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Photo: Getty

Attendees enjoy a David Bowie concert, 1973
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Photo: Getty

Attendees enjoy a Beyoncé Concert, 2013
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Photo: AP

A man walks through the snow in London's St. James Park, 2007
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Photo: Getty

A woman walks through the snow in London's St James Park, 2010
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Photo: Getty

Matt Lauer greets fans outside NBC's Today Show, 1999
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Photo: Getty

Matt Lauer greets fans outside NBC's Today Show, 2013
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Photo: Getty

A man dines alone, 1959
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Photo: Getty

A man dines alone, 2014
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Photo: Getty

Women sit for manicures and beauty treatments, 1971
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Photo: Getty

A woman sits for a manicure, 2013
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Photo: Getty

Fans stake out stars at the premiere of "Seven Years in Tibet," Los Angeles 1996
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Photo: Getty

Fans stake out stars at the premiere of "The Great Gatsby," 2014
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Photo: Getty

Malia and Sasha Obama stand together at the Inaugural Parade, 2009
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Photo: AP

Malia and Sasha Obama sit together at the Inaugural Parade, 2013
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Photo: AP

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