The Effect of Phone Presence on Relationship Development

The Effect of Phone Presence on Relationship Development



The Effect of Phone Presence on Relationship Development

The correlation between relationship development and modern day distracters including cell phones and other hand held gadgets is a valid claim. Cell phones take up a massive amount of time in a single day. They are connected to increased distance between human beings particularly in terms of contact and comprehension of non-verbal signs. Przybylski and Weinstein (2012) discovered that “…they can have negative effects on closeness, connection, and conversation quality”. However, these studies work from the premise that mobile phones are already a distraction and develop their argument from this point. It is difficult to argue against the distracting presence of mobile phones in any conversation involving two or more individuals. The design, functioning, and role of these devices are such that they are intrusive in nature. Regardless of the phone mode, vibrate or ringer, the mobile phone is bound to attract attention away from social interactions.

Several studies have proposed the concept of perceptual blindness and its role in allowing human beings to ignore the allure of the mobile phones subconsciously while engaged in social situations. Using deductions made from this study, one might argue that despite the increased significance of mobile phones, and other gadgets in the modern lifestyle, people are still able to function as excellent social animals without their distractions. Hyman, Sarb, & Wise-Swanson (2014) argued “…people may use visual information to guide the control of actions, but may not devote attention to objects.” Therefore, it is highly possible for human beings to maintain and enhance interpersonal and group relationships with other regardless of the proximity, priming, and notifications emanating from cell phones. While the same usage of cell phones can cause perceptual blindness, this phenomenon is most likely attributed to the brain’s method of processing that involves the dorsal pathway that uses visual information (Hyman et al., 2014).

A substantial number of studies have investigated the current amount of mobile phone usage and have reached a general conclusion that their consumption is excessive. For instance, Hyman et al. (2014) argued that technology has progressed to an extent that opinions and sentiments are shared instantaneously through different devices. This implies that an individual can never claim to be accurately alone and therefore, creating dependency on other individuals. Misra et al., (2016) argued in “The iPhone Effect” that people meeting at a public place were more preoccupied with servicing their online and digital relationships compared to physical ones. This is a clear indicator that relationships across digital platforms are given a higher priority at the expense of social contact with individuals in the immediate environment.

The invention of the mobile phone created an excellent way of maintaining contact with a greater number of people through text messages. This is because such discrete modes in mobile phones maintain the flow of thought and connection in discussions or conversations with other people. Therefore, the devices have facilitated greater flexibility in relationship development rather than contributing towards its deterioration. The greater body of research on the effect of mobile phones on the development of interpersonal relationships focuses on the negative aspects. It paints the mobile phone and other related technology as drawing people away from each other. However, from the studies analyzed in the previous sections, it is emerging that mobile phones have little effect on the ability of human beings to form genuine and deep relationships.


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Hyman, I. E. J., Sarb, B. A., & Wise-Swanson, B. M. (2014). Failure to see money on a tree: inattentional blindness for objects that guided behavior. Frontiers in Psychology, 5.

Misra S., Cheng L., Genevie J. & Yuan M. (2016). The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices. Environment and Behavior. 4-19.

Przybylski, A. K., & Weinstein, N. (2013). 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, 3, 237-246.

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