Smartphones: Making Us More Social Or Less? - InformationWeek
IoT
IoT
Mobile // Mobile Devices
Commentary
8/26/2015
12:05 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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Smartphones: Making Us More Social Or Less?

People use smartphones more often, and in a greater variety of ways, to contribute to -- and avoid -- group gatherings, according to new Pew research.

9 Ways Technology Is Slowly Killing Us All
9 Ways Technology Is Slowly Killing Us All
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Do you answer text messages when at the dinner table? What about checking Instagram when waiting in line for coffee? Surely you've searched Google for information relevant to a group conversation. Smartphone use continues to saturate our daily lives, yet not everyone agrees about when the devices should and shouldn't be used during social gatherings.

About 92% of US adults own a cellphone, according to the Pew Research Center's American Trends Panel, and 90% of those phone-owning adults bring their phone with them wherever they go. About 31% of people say they never turn their phone off completely, and 45% seldom turn their phone off.

You could say our society is as connected as ever, but smartphones add an element of disconnect, says Pew.

Most adults agree on which phone-based behaviors are acceptable and which are unacceptable. For example, 77% of Pew respondents believe it is generally OK to use a phone when walking down the street; 75% say it's OK when on public transportation; and 74% agree it's OK when waiting in a line.

"Americans of all ages generally trend in the same direction about when it is OK or not to use cells in public settings," according to the Aug. 26 report from Pew. "Fully 'public' venues are viewed by all age groups as generally acceptable places to use one's cellphone, while usage in quiet or more intimate settings is mostly frowned upon by all."

When is using a cellphone not cool? At restaurants (say 62% of adults), at family dinner (88%), during a meeting (94%), at the movies or performances (95%), and at church services (96%).

(Image: Pew)

(Image: Pew)

Pew asked survey respondents, of which there were 3,217, to think specifically about how they've used their phone in recent social gatherings. Most, or 89%, said they pulled their phone out during their last group event, and 86% said someone in their group also used their phone.

How are people using their phones when with friends, family, and colleagues? They read messages (61%), take photos/video (58%), send messages (52%), answer calls (52%), check alerts (34%), make a call (33%), use an app (29%), or browse the Web (25%).

At least some people are turning to their phones to avoid those around them.

Some 16% of respondents said they pulled out their phone because they were no longer interested in the group's activities or conversation. Some 15% said they wanted to interact with others outside the group, and 10% used their phone to avoid participating in whatever the group was doing.

So, yes, smartphones do help people act in an antisocial manner; however, Pew says people often use their smartphones to improve or enhance the group interaction.

[Read more about the history of the smartphone.]

For example, 45% said they used their phone to post a picture or video of the group activity and 41% used their phone to share a group activity with others via text or social networks. Moreover, 38% of people used their phone to search for information relevant to the group's activity or conversation, and 31% used their device to reach out to absent members of the group.

As expected, younger users have more tolerance for behaviors that older users might consider rude or antisocial.

"Along with being more tolerant than their elders about cellphone use in public, younger adults also tend to use their phones for a wider range of purposes while out and about in public," according to Pew. "Young adults who have cellphones are also more likely than seniors to have used their cellphone during their most recent social gathering."

What do you think? When is it rude to use your smartphone in social settings? Please sound off in the comments section.

Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio
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shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2015 | 11:15:14 PM
Re: In a way, it helps
@Johnymereva – I found a good video that shows us how technology has changed the way we do things. Try searching for a video named "Disconnect to Connect".
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2015 | 11:12:52 PM
Re: In a way, it helps
@Johnymereva – Sometimes we don't realize where technology is taking us. Sometime back meeting at diner was fun while having your meals, people laugh talk share ideas. Today we see most of them looking at their phones ignoring the people around them. 
Johnymereva
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Johnymereva,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/31/2015 | 11:06:06 AM
Re: In a way, it helps
Yeah I agree with you the far the technology goes the less option we have on some models, I dont get it... But yeah in my opinion smartphones are making us less social..
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2015 | 6:26:20 AM
Re: In a way, it helps
@Pablo Its good to have strict rules for their own protection and the protection of the community. Unfortunately some feel rules are meant to be broken.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2015 | 6:24:50 AM
Re: In a way, it helps
@Stratustician- I have seen places of worship having signal jammers to keep the attention of individuals who always stick to their smartphones. I think it should not be a control measure but a personal ethic.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2015 | 6:22:22 AM
Re: In a way, it helps
@Gary_EL – If someone busy with their smartphone I rather not go and disturb them hence I think they are not interested in being social. 
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2015 | 10:44:53 PM
Re: In a way, it helps
No I think our reactions differ even if we know the difference between digitally social and physically social. Like if someone talks to you face to face and you start engaging in a conversation , the same conversation that you had earlier on the Facebook with a different person, our thought processes mould our reactions in the way we would have reacted by reading what the other person wrote at Facebook. So our physical reaction becomes a manifestation of our digital reaction. This decreases attention and we often skirt our vision to different objects without paying much heed to what the person is saying.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2015 | 10:39:07 PM
Re: In a way, it helps
@stratustician: so they are learning from you. That is good. The problem with us is that we think smartphones are an integral part of our life, which it is not. Most of my colleagues who have bought smartphones have given this excuse:"you know they are smart. I can work in my office more efficiently if I install those office apps". But in reality they are just browsing Facebook, using Instagram etc. It is our fault that we don't do what we originally intended to do with the smartphone.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2015 | 10:34:39 PM
Re: Smartphones, Dumb Consumers
@asksqn: I think your guy was an introvert. Nevertheless it is true that most people who are socially active through a smartphone aren't so smart anymore. Neither they have good communicational skills.
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
8/28/2015 | 11:27:54 PM
Re: In a way, it helps
vnewman, at least when it comes to businesses, what matters most is your value as a customer. You're a big fish, you're getting priority whether you're asking questions in person or via text or through twitter. You not such a big fish ... you can wait.
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