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From face time to Facetime

Photo by Sterling Z. Rubottom

Technology made its mark on the 21st century and became the central point of today’s society.

In 2010, more than 77 percent of Americans had a computer, and 92 percent owned a cell phone. The average American will check their phone once every 12 minutes, adding up to a total of 80 times per day.

Cell phones have become more useful throughout the years. People can access news, check the weather, track fitness goals and entertain themsleves with games and music. Smartphones have developed so rapidly, researchers are discovering they are more of a burden than a help.

“A lot of the children that I work with have speech development issues, and it’s because they never spent enough time watching their parents actually pronounce words,” said Dr. Randall Feller, Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Behavioral Sciences department at ORU. “They were hearing the adults in the environment, but they weren’t seeing their parents say the words. So, they didn’t learn where to place their tongue, or their lips.”

In 2016, a study done by the Psychology of Popular Media Culture showed 70 percent of women felt their relationships were negatively affected by smartphones. One-third of the 143 women in the research said their partners would respond to notifications on the phone during verbal conversations, and one out of four said their partner would text during discussions.

Dr. James Roberts, a professor at Baylor University, asked 175 men and women about how their partners used their phones around them. Forty-six percent said they were frequently phone snubbed, or “phubbed,” by their partners.

“We’re teaching young children that if we give them a cell phone or an iPad as a ‘babysitter’ they can completely ignore everything else that’s going on and become completely fascinated with the screen,” said Feller. “It’s no wonder then that even in a committed relationship there are all kinds of marital dissatisfactions because of [phubbing].”

A set of studies showed that having a phone present during a conversation, even if it is sitting on the dinner table, immediately decreases the quality of conversation. Feller explained people are not as willing to have meaningful conversation if the phone is present because they don’t want the risk of being interrupted.

Fortune 500 companies are finding they now have to train their young just-out-of-college employees basic interpersonal skills. 

“They are so used to texting each other that they’re not as good at talking with each other,” said Feller. “So now they get to the workplace and they miss the subtle facial cues and they get into more conflict at the workplace.”

Researchers used Facebook to see if interactions through social media stimulated positive or negative emotions. The conclusion of the study showed using social media to view others’ posts caused depression and loneliness.

In a study called “Phubbed and Alone,” Meredith David and James Roberts wrote, “it is ironic that cell phones, originally designed as a communication tool, may actually hinder rather than foster interpersonal connectedness.”

Robert Weiss is a counselor in Los Angeles and author of “Closer Together, Further Apart: The Effect of Technology and the Internet on Parenting, Work and Relationships.” He believes that technology is not a bad thing, it just depends on how it is used and viewed.

“Boomers and Gen-Xers may look at young people staring at their devices and think they’re being antisocial, but who is to say we’re right and they’re wrong,” said Weiss. “They’re just socializing differently.”

Regardless of data for or against phone use, they will continue to be used bountifully.