Recent research shows it doesn’t even take checking your phone to annoy those around you – just having your mobile device in the room can negatively impact your interactions with other people.
In a study titled “Can you connect with me now?” University of Essex researchers performed two experiments to see how the presence of a cellular phone affected the dynamic between two people.
The researchers asked pairs of strangers to sit together in private booths where a book had been placed out of their direct line of sight.
In addition to the book, each booth had one other object. One set of subjects could also see a notebook in their peripheral vision, while the other set could see a cell phone out of the corner of their eyes.
The strangers were then asked to share a personal story of an interesting event that had happened to them in the last month, after which researchers asked them questions about the relationship they had formed.
Even in the short interaction — each pair was only together for 10 minutes — the difference between having a phone in the background versus not having one was notable.
The strangers who were seated within eyeshot of a phone felt less close and reported a lower quality of relationships with their partner than those who were placed in an environment without a phone in the background.
The researchers performed a second experiment in which pairs of strangers engaged in both casual and meaningful conversations, and again found that when a mobile phone was present it “predicted lower relationship quality.”
The study concluded that “the mere presence” of a cell phone can have a negative effect on interpersonal relationships, and that ditching the devices can lead to more feelings of closeness, trust, and empathy — particularly when trying to have a meaningful conversation.
While cell phones can help people connect to each other across great distances, the research suggests they can actually interfere with in-person connections, potentially creating emotional rifts between people who regularly spend time together.
The report points to previous research that shows cell phones have a pervasive habit of interfering with human interaction, including a 2002 study that found “a significant portion of couples eating together repeatedly interrupt their meals to check for text or voice messages.”
So, looking for a better way to connect with your loved ones? Ditch your cell phones and just enjoy each other’s company, distraction-free.
Have you noticed a change in your relationships, since your smartphone came into the picture?