#8: Getting your phone out makes your conversations shit

In a 2012 study, Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein of the University of Essex found that the mere presence of a mobile phone during a face-to-face conversation between two people “inhibited the development of interpersonal closeness and trust, and reduced the extent to which individuals felt empathy and understanding from their partners”.

The phone didn’t ring and no one drew attention to it; it was just in the room. The damaging effects were most pronounced when it came to conversations that were personally meaningful to the participants. Ouch.

An even more damning study was performed in 2014 by Shalini Misra at Virginia Tech. In her study of 100 pairs it was found that “conversations in the absence of mobile communication technologies were rated as significantly superior compared with those in the presence of a mobile device”.

Two good friends conversing in the company of phones reported lower levels of empathy than two strangers who talked without getting out their mobile devices. Phones makes strangers of good friends. Less than strangers.

If you’re one of the 80% of us who use their smartphone while talking to friends or the 68% while having dinner with family, then you’re impairing your social interactions with those closest to you.

According to a 2016 study by Jesper Aagaard such impairment is showed by “delayed responses, mechanical intonation, a motionless body, and a lack of eye contact”.

It sounds monstrous because it is.

Further Reading

Przybylski, A. K., and N. Weinstein. ‘Can You Connect with Me Now? How the Presence of Mobile Communication Technology Influences Face-to-Face Conversation Quality’. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 30, no. 3 (1 May 2013): 237–46. doi:10.1177/0265407512453827.

Misra, S., L. Cheng, J. Genevie, and M. Yuan. ‘The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices’. Environment and Behavior 48, no. 2 (1 February 2016): 275–98. doi:10.1177/0013916514539755.

Aagaard, Jesper. “Mobile devices, interaction, and distraction: a qualitative exploration of absent presence.” AI & Society 31, no. 2 (2016): 223-231.

Deloitte Mobile Consumer 2016: The UK Cut. p36-37 http://www.deloitte.co.uk/mobileuk/assets/pdf/Deloitte-Mobile-Consumer-2016-There-is-no-place-like-phone.pdf.

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at davidcharles.info.

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