Despite Siri’s best attempts at conversation with her iPhone owners, cell phones do not make good friends, nor do they aid in keeping them. Actually, they do just the opposite, according to a recent Baylor University study.
Cell phones are “eroding our personal relationships,” said the study’s author, James Roberts, a marketing professor at Baylor University.
Yet many young people—even those who well aware of the destructive qualities of constant cell phone use—can’t stay away.
“At first glance, one might have the tendency to dismiss such aberrant cell phone use as merely youthful nonsense—a passing fad, Roberts said. “But an emerging body of literature has given increasing credence to cell phone addiction and similar behavioral addictions.” He pointed out that cell phone addiction is fueled by materialism and impulsiveness, similar to consumption pathologies like compulsive buying and credit card misuse.
“Having texts, calls, email, and Facebook all in one spot is great, but way too distracting many times,” said Kelli Davies, 26, of Lone Oak, Texas. “I feel like I might miss something from someone—and not responding, or someone not responding to me, is one of my biggest pet peeves.”
Lee Hyatt, 31, of Champaign, Ill., agreed that cell phone addiction has become an epidemic that’s destroying friendships, mentioning non-stop access to Facebook as one of the main culprits.
“I think Facebook is to friendship what porn is to sexuality—they are each selfish substitutes for something that, as designed, is a good desire,” he said. “Facebook allows you to listen or stop listening to your friends, whenever you want. There is really no give—it’s all take. It makes us feel like we have these real relationships, when it’s actually too lopsided and selfish to be called friendship.”
Christina Valderas of Midlothian, Texas, admitted that her cell phone addiction even reaches into the bedroom.
“When my husband and I should be spending time with one another in bed, we instead find ourselves on Facebook, checking email, etc. on our phones,” Valderas said. “Less communicating and less sleep. It’s so stupid of us!”
Speaking on behalf of the ones being ignored by cell phone addicts, Bethany Roszhart, 26, of Grapevine, Texas, said, “I try to be very intentional about limiting my cell phone use when I’m interacting with friends or family face-to-face. I am usually pretty offended when I am with someone who doesn’t show me the same courtesy.”
Dian Williams of Dallas agreed. “I think it’s rude to text when someone is talking to you. It shows that the person in front of you is not very important.”
So what’s the solution? What can cell users do to fight their addiction?
Davies mentioned she has stopped almost all push notifications on her phone. “That way it isn’t going off as much and I am not constantly looking at it,” she said, adding that it’s helping some.
“Solution? I don’t know that there is one,” said Roszhart. “It has to be a personal decision to value the people you are with over the people on your phone—a personal decision I don’t see many of my friends adopting.”
According to the Baylor University report, previous studies have shown that in a single day young adults send an average of 109.5 text messages, receive an additional 113 text messages, and check their cell phone an average of 60 times. The report also said that on average, college students spend approximately seven hours a day interacting via information and communication technology.
The study, published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions and co-authored by Stephen Pirog III, an associate professor and chair of the department of marketing at Seton Hall University, is the first to probe the role materialism plays in cell phone addiction.