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Do Cell Phones Interfere With Our Social Behavior?

Does this sound familiar? Most of us are guilty of constantly checking our phones to check our emails, texts, Facebook status, etc. We aren’t strangers to this behavior and it’s actually quite normal–things like meeting up with an old friend and not being able to keep a conversation with the person across from you without being attached to your phone.  Nowadays it’s unusual to walk around without phone attached to you.

Having a cell phone has changed many people’s lives, including mine.  If I am without my phone, for five minutes or five hours, I go into a panic mode, like most teenagers.  Like many teenagers, at the dinner table, I get the constant, “Katerina get off your phone” from my parents.  

A recent study shows that young people use their cell phones in different ways from older adults. According to, teenagers use text messaging more than adults. The average teen (even including teens without cell phones) sends and receives five times more text messages a day than a typical adult.  A teen typically sends or receives fifty text messages a day while the average adult sends or receives ten. 31% of teens send more than 100 texts per day and 15% send more than 200.  

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Teenagers are obsessed with their phones because of all the different social media you can use on it.  Snapchat, Instagram, texting, etc. are many reasons why we become highly dependent on our devices.  There’s always something to be doing on your phone.  More than half of teenagers that text (51%) do it several times a day just to say hello and chat.  Meanwhile, only about a third (34%) of adults who text do it to say hello. Teenagers also are more likely to sleep with their cell phones on or right next to their bed; 84% of teens do this.  Meanwhile 65% of adults 18 or older with a cell phone have done so.  

An article I found online called “A New Kind of Social Anxiety in the Classroom”  discusses how being glued to our phones 24/7 gives us a new kind of social anxiety.  Technology has created a heightened sense of anxiety about talking to someone face to face.  It makes the suspense of meeting up with someone or meeting someone for the first time a whole lot more frightening.  Yet some psychologists are skeptical that social media is to blame among teens when it comes to social anxiety.

A recent study from by Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein from the University of Essex showed that our phones hurt our close relationships.  Przybylski and Weinstein asked random people to have a conversation about intimate topics for ten minutes.  The strangers left their phones outside so that they wouldn’t have access to them. The presence of the cell phone had no effect on relationship quality, trust, and empathy, but only if the pairs discussed a casual topic.  Contrasts occurred when the conversation was meaningful and deep.  The pairs in this experiment that had a cell phone nearby reported that their relationship quality was worse.

In many cases, having a cell phone around can be a huge help.  If you're lost and need help you can call up someone.  If you’re late to lunch with your friend you can call them to push back the time. The problem isn’t exactly the presence of cell phones, but rather how we use them.  Interacting in a neutral environment without a cell phone nearby seems to foster the building blocks of a relationship.  Phones often take our attention away from the current environment and are distracting.  Cell phone usage might even be reducing our social consciousness.  It might be too far to leave your cell phone at home while going on a date or spending time and catching up with a friend, but if you are spending the day with someone you care about, you might want to put the cell phone aside and spend some time chatting and catching up.    You might want to reconsider the next time you are too quick to reach for your phone to check sports games updates or to reply to a snapchat or text message.  


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