My family and I decided to go out to dinner last evening. We called ahead so we could be seated with minimal wait time. Upon our arrival, the hostess informed us that a table should be ready in a few minutes and handed me the coveted round pager. The waiting area was crowded so we decided to sit outside. Seconds after everyone found their place, cell phones were in hand to keep us occupied as we waited. We were not alone, most everyone not actively engaged in a conversation seemed to have their phones in use as well. A short time later the pager lit up and we were ushered to our table. After giving the waitress our order, I began looking around the room. At a nearby table, a small child was watching videos on a tablet. At another table, a teenager was playing games on his cell phone. I continued to scan the room and realized that almost everyone not eating or talking was using their phone to some extent. Isn’t it amazing we were able to keep ourselves entertained before these hand held devices came into our lives? Today we carry them with us 24/7 and use them to fill any void. We do this without thinking about possible unintended consequences. Existing research indicates that cell phone use can result in increased anxiety, reduced happiness, changes in social interaction and addiction.
A study of college students performed by Lepp, Barkley and Karpinsky (2014) found that frequent cell phone use leads to higher anxiety, lower grades and a reduction in happiness. If this also holds true for employed individuals, the organizations they work may be experiencing a reduction in productivity as a result. Furthermore, if we exclude the performance factor, high anxiety and reduced happiness could result in a number of stress related illnesses later in life including cardiovascular disorders such as coronary heart disease (i.e. heart attacks and angina) and hypertension.
Social interactions have also changed drastically as a result of increased cell phone use. When I was a young adult we didn’t have cell phones, let alone smart phones. If you needed to talk to someone you went over to their house or called them on a land line. Today people have entire conversations with one another via text message and never see the person’s facial expressions or hear the tone of their voice. This can lead to misunderstandings between the sender and recipient of the message due to an interpretation error. Texting has even reached a point where delicate conversations such as breaking up with someone are now done electronically. Therefore, social interactions via text message enable people to avoid dealing directly with the hard things in life and teaches them to take the easy way out. Ira Hyman, Ph.D. has examined cell phone use in detail and urges older individuals not to judge the social interactions of today’s young adults (Hyman, 2014). He takes the stance that the way in which young adults are using their cell phones does not mean they are addicted to them but rather indicates that they rely on them to communicate and interact with others (Hyman, 2014). However, Michelle Hackman, who performed a study on cell phone use addiction for a science fair, would likely disagree (Price, 2011). In her study Ms. Hackman found that cell phones serve as a stimulant for many individuals (Price, 2011). Since addictions are caused by stimulants (i.e. drugs or alcohol), she concluded that cell phone use can be considered an addiction (Price, 2011). Does this mean every cell phone user is addicted to their phone? No, but then not everyone who drinks is addicted to alcohol.
Therefore, the next time you are out at your favorite restaurant and you see a majority of the people in the room buried in their cell phones, ask yourself, are they just passing the time or are they addicted?
Hyman, I. (2014, January 26). Cell Phones are Changing Social Interaction. Retrieved October 24, 2015, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-mishaps/201401/cell-phones-are-changing-social-interaction
Lepp, A., Barkley, J. E., & Karpinski, A. C. (2014). The relationship between cell phone use, academic performance, anxiety, and satisfaction with life in college students. Computers in Human Behavior, 31, 343-350. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1016/j.chb.2013.10.049
Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2015). Lesson 9: Media/Communications Technology. PSYCH424: Applied Social Psychology.
Price, M. (2011). Cell phone addiction rings true for teen psychologist. Retrieved October 24, 2015, from http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/features/2011/cell-phone-addiction.aspx
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.