The psychology goes something like this, he says: You break your phone. You can't afford to fix it. You are kinda embarrassed that you did it.
"So maybe, you don't want to ask your parents for money," Lyman said. "So, you tell yourself, I'm gonna be badass with a broken phone."
There is a class dimension to all of this, said Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University and author of "The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future."
"If you're low-income and you're surrounded by signs of deterioration, you don't see a cracked-up phone as a sign of status," he said.
But to really understand the phenomenon of the cracked smartphone screen, you have to realize how attached the younger generation is to cellphones, said Bauerlein, 54, a self-described grumpy old man.
"These phones are the embodiment of their social lives with the tremendous power to keep up with their friends. So, it's really a tool of their independence," Bauerlein said. "They are the locked diary of this generation."
So, if the phone is dropped and broken? Are you broken?
The fragility of the phone means, you cracked it, Bauerlein says, but, look, it still works!
"So it survived," Bauerlein said. "And that extends to you. You're worldly wise. You have a kind of toughness. You're a survivor."