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The Negative Effects of Mobile Technology on Communication in the U.S.

Even though mobile technology has been a significant innovation to humans, the tools can also be the biggest problem in our lives. Mobile handsets are everywhere since they have become an essential part of life for many people as they enable individuals to communicate and access the Internet. The technology interrupts people’s stories, the ability to think or daydream, and imagine something pleasant. Due to mobile technology, most people are too busy bridging the walk to the cafeteria back to the office using their cellphones. Therefore, the argument on whether digital technologies enable and disable interpersonal communication, community, and individual communication is still persistent. Technology affects the capability of developing relationships, establishes informal communication in businesses, and interferes with interpersonal communication and the quality of the conversation, particularly whenever people engage in meaningful topics. What are the direct negative effects of cell phones on communication in the U.S.? Continued use of mobile communication has led to decreased levels of interpersonal and face-to-face interaction by inhibiting the key elements in communication.

The world is experiencing an increasing number of mobile users year after year, as seen in the figure below. A 2015 study by Emily Drago investigated this phenomenon using data from the U.S. census focusing on the effects of cellphones on communication. The study reported that “90% of Americans owned mobile handsets of any kind, while the number was 97% for individuals aged 44 and below” (Drago 2). The study is relevant since it shows that mobile communication devices interfere with human communication in social settings. A study by Lengacher confirmed these findings by noting that mobile handsets negatively affect closeness, connection, and the quality of conversation, especially in instances where individuals are engaging in personally meaningful topics.

Figure 1. Number of smartphone users worldwide from 2016 to 2021 (in billions) (Oberlo).

First, mobile technology has led to poor verbal communications. It has limited the ability for most users to use language in transforming emotions and signs. According to Antheunis, “Face-to-face communication and interpersonal communication are considered the best forms of verbal interaction since they are commonly used in presentations, meetings, and video conferences” (384). The article is significant for the study since it argues that face-to-face communication is effective and authentic since it fosters one-on-one interaction with other parties. As a result, the authenticity and reliability of the message are guaranteed. However, the advent of mobile technology affects effective language development through the transformation of signs. For instance, people lie about their exact locations, while in some cases, applications within the mobile handsets also fake even the voice of the speaker. Therefore, technology has affected effective communication.

Secondly, smartphone usage causes distraction rather than concentrating on topics under discussion. A study by Jordan Hamman noted that individuals have forgotten what is important since they are focused on the mobile handset screens (social media) rather than the world in front of them. Since the advent of the broadband Internet, “the world is forever changing since people have gone from the notorious bag-phone over 40 years ago to a simplified handheld device with pagers, and eventually, smartphones” (Hamman). Smartphones have changed communication between people, given that information is readily available on mobile browsers and mobile apps, including the news that we consume. The article is relevant to this study since it contributes details such as the ability of devices to allow people to communicate in different ways, keep track of appointments, and allow them to add new features and applications for every use. As a result, individuals curtail the need for interpersonal communication since the information is readily available on the Internet and mobile apps. For instance, Hamman argues that there are over 5.8 billion applications for our smartphones. Campana reported that it is amazing how advanced technology has become. However, the problem is how dependent the society has become to it since people are addicted to their cellphones, thereby suffering from the Phantom Vibration Syndrome (PVS) or the feeling that our phones are vibrating or ringing when they are not. PVS is an effect of addiction to mobile phones whereby people experience an itchy-skin and the sensation that the skin is crawling off them.

Thirdly, mobile technologies have hindered the effective development of interpersonal relationships since people are too much focused on their mobile handsets and have no time for physical interpersonal connection. According to Hamman, technology has reduced the amount of face-to-face interaction following the large number of phone conversations that people have. One can easily send a text message rather than a phone call over a simple issue. The attained efficiency is a benefit that comes at the cost of lost interpersonal interaction. Relationships are developed whenever a business understands its clients and discovers new opportunities to serve them effectively via personal interactions. A study by Lickerman on the effect of technology on relationships confirms these findings by noting that the Internet accessed via smartphones has isolated people from the rest of the world. The authors note that from pornography to simply surfing the web, the Internet is the television of the 21st century. However, issues begin to arise whenever people subtly substitute electronic relationships with physical ones or mistake electronic relationships for physical ones. For instance, when one goes to a restaurant, a majority of the people will be on their phones. The action is perceived as disrespect to the other person and the relationship in whatever form it may be.

Mobile communication is also hurting and killing relationships. For instance, after pulling up any text conversation through mobile communication, confusion of misunderstanding arising from the inability to read the physical facial expressions and body language of the person in response to something said in the chat is evident. Therefore, unless we understand and know how someone reads a text and make an educated guess on whether the response was meant in a joking manner, understanding the message fully is difficult. The use of mobile phones has also limited the ability of people to include key elements of verbal communication in face-to-face communication as it has negative impacts on sociability and well-being. A study conducted by Antheunis et al. indicates that the use of mobile technology has distracted people from getting intimate and connected with the conversations and interactions held during face-to-face communication (834). A Pew Research Center study found that one in every four people owning cell phones and in marriage or serious intimate relationships found their partners too distracted by their mobile handsets. The study further notes that mobile technology has increased since 2014 (Lengacher). Therefore, mobile technology has had adverse effects on relationships.

Mobile technology also bears a negative influence on verbal communications as it shapes the system of psychological processes and behaviors within groups. With the emergence of technology, people in different groups can identify key information that is hidden in visual stimuli and clusters of characters. Normally, technology enhances group relations since it eases the process of forming social bonds and relations. Specifically, technology plays a significant role in influencing intergroup relations due to its new tools, platforms, and strategies that enhance communication and relations (Nardi and Whittaker 88). For example, social media sites like Facebook have brought together groups of people with the same agenda, even though it has not clearly defined how members of this group can communicate effectively to come to agreements with the groups’ concerns and goals. However, the same technology has also been used to incite rivalry and differences in group relations. When technology is not effectively integrated into the social setting, it leads to negative effects that stem from loneliness and decreased level of approaching and responding to people. The use of mobile technology in communication has been associated with limited ability to communicate using verbal skills.

However, some researchers believe that mobile technology is beneficial to interpersonal communication. According to Lengacher, “cellphones increase the speed and efficiency of face-to-face and interpersonal communication.” An organization can reach out to customers quickly and help them improve the efficiency of any business operation. Moreover, mobile handsets ease the process of keeping contact details of clients and other close people. However, in refutation, it is necessary to reach out to them with questions or updates anywhere. For instance, a field trying to establish reasons why an order has not arrived on time can quickly contact the main office, the supplier, or logistics and delivery courier in a few minutes to obtain the information.

Face-to-face and interpersonal communications are important, and society needs to identify ways through which technology can be used to improve the forms of interaction. Normal communication settings are characterized by communication as one of the most basic interactions. For instance, in the workplace and school, communication is one of the basic interactions that determine the success and failure of our activities. At the workplace, communication helps employees to succeed in different positions (Nardi and Whittaker 86). Failure to communicate may keep one from getting a deserved position or promotion. From the entry-level duties to an executive position, communication defines success and failure. At school, effective communication improves learning and the ability to get through the tests and examinations. Ideally, this communication stems from the upbringing and environments that have a great influence on interaction. Therefore, society needs to identify ways through which society can improve its communication using key elements of communication. Future researchers need to carry out extensive studies on the impact of mobile technology on interpersonal communication skills (Nardi and Whittaker 89). Other than uncovering the different ways through which mobile technology affects the verbal communications, future researchers ought to identify ways in which people can take advantage of technological changes in communication to improve on the different forms of communication.

Continued use of mobile communication has led to decreased levels of interpersonal and face-to-face interaction by inhibiting the key elements in communication. First, mobile handsets have limited the ability of people to include key elements of verbal communication in face-to-face communication as it has negative impacts on sociability and well-being. Second, mobile technology limits the ability to express emotions such as empathy since it is impossible for the parties in communication to observe non-verbal communication cues such as facial expressions and other body languages. Mobile phone use has limited the aspect of being comfortable to relate confidently and genuinely as it is subject to lies and external issues. Technology affects both inter-personal communications, as there is a causal relationship that exists between culture and technology. For instance, mobile technology comes with a negative influence on these verbal communications since it shapes the system of psychological processes and behaviors within groups. Therefore, face-to-face and interpersonal communications are essential. Thus, society needs to identify the ways through which technology can be used to improve these forms of interaction.

Works Cited

Antheunis, Marjolijn L., et al. “Computer-Mediated Communication and Interpersonal Attraction: An Experimental Test of Two Explanatory Hypotheses.” CyberPsychology & Behavior, vol. 10, no. 6, 2007, pp. 831-836.

The article by Antheunis et al. sought to find out the effect of computer-mediated communication (CMC) on interpersonal attraction. The source further investigated the underlying processes in CMC concerning interpersonal relationships. The research identified two variables: self-disclosure and direct questioning that were essential in mediating the impact of CMC on interpersonal attractiveness. After that, the study tested the hypothesis that CMC-induced direct questioning and self-disclosure have a positive effect on interpersonal attraction relationships. The study tested the hypotheses using 81-randomly assigned dyads to visual CMC, face-to-face, and text-only CMC. The findings did not show a direct influence of CMC on interpersonal attraction, though text-only CMC had an indirect effect on the relationship. The findings of the study are significantly important to this study since they relate to the effective use of mobile technology in communication.

Campana, Catherine Elaine. “The Negative Effects that your Cell Phone is Having on you and your Life.” The Odyssey Online, 10 Nov. 2016. www.theodysseyonline.com/negative-effects-cell-phone-life. Accessed 6 Jan. 2020.

Campana discusses the negative effects that mobile phones have on people’s lives. The article argues that the phone acts as a security device for most people since people cannot leave the house without it, and it is always next to them. Constant use of smartphones has adverse effects such as detachment from other people, and it could cause possible vision problems in the future. As a result, Campana discourages people from being addicted to using their phones. The article contributes critical information to this study since it analyzes the future impacts of phone addiction besides emphasizing that it will ruin face-to-face communication.

Drago, Emily. “The Effect of Technology on Face-to-Face Communication.” The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, vol. 6, no. 1, 2015, pp. 13–19.

The article by Drago uses previous studies and field observations to analyze the level of engagement of individuals with their mobile handsets, other technologies, and with each other’s engagements. The study found that technology has adverse effects on the quality and quantity of face to face communication. The findings will be essential in this study since they will contribute to recommendations about reducing the use of mobile technology to improve face-to-face interaction.

Hamman, Jordan. “The Effects of Cellphones on Face-to-Face Communication.” 23 Jul. 2018. www.medium.com/@jhamann/the-effects-of-cellphones-on-face-to-face-communication-6de063929b0f. Accessed 6 Jan. 2020.

Hamman studied the effects that mobile handsets have on face-to-face communication. The article established that cellphones have a direct negative impact on people’s ability to communicate. Besides, cellphones negatively affect our communication strategies by distracting individuals from engaging in face-to-face communication. They deviate the attention of individuals in communication and reduce their chances of being involved in physical communication. The findings are important to this study since they reinforce the thesis that increased use of technology reduces face-to-face communication.

Kaiser Family Foundation. “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds.” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Jan. 2010, www.kff.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/8010.pdf. Accessed 6 Jan. 2020.

The research that was undertaken by the Kaiser Family Foundation sought to analyze the effects that the media plays among young people aged 8-18 years. The research found that young people had increased the use of music or audio content, TV, computers, and video games, some of which they can access with ease through smartphones. The article argues that e relationship exists between the use of media and academic performance. Heavy users of the media are bound to perform poorly at school compared to children that lightly use the media or do not use it at all. These findings are critical to this study since they will form part of the recommendations to reduce the use of social media among teenagers.

Lengacher, Lucas. “Mobile Technology: Its Effect on Face-to-Face Communication and Interpersonal Interaction.” Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences (URJHS), vol. 14, no.1. 2015.

Lengacher investigated the impact that mobile technology has on face-to-face communication and the ability to enhance interpersonal interactions. The article argues that increased exposure to communication pathways reduces the physical communication and interactions among people. Some of the communication pathways include texting and voice calls. Accordingly, mobile technology lessens face-to-face interaction due to the availability of online stimulants that lower physical sociability. The findings of the article will support this research by supporting the thesis that mobile technology hurts face-to-face communication.

Lickerman, M.D., Alex. “The Effect of Technology on Relationships.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 8 June 2010, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-in-world/201006/the-effect-technology-relationships. Accessed 6 Jan. 2020.

Lickerman sought to establish the effects of addiction on the Internet on relationships. The study notes that a significant number of people owning smartphones can access the Internet anytime. As a result, they tend to access social media via phone. Addiction to such activity results in isolation, poor etiquette, and dangers such as detachment from physical communication. As a result, Lickerman provides several rules for using social media to avoid addiction and enhance communication. The article is relevant to this study since it provides strategies that people can use to avoid addiction to social media and improve their interpersonal relationships through enhanced communication.

Nardi, Bonnie, and Steve Whittaker. “The Place of Face-To-Face Communication in Distributed Work.” Distributed Work, 2002.

The article explains the significance of face-to-face communication in distributed work. Distributed work requires a mediated form of communication compared to face-to-face communication. However, Nardi and Whitaker argue that activities of face-to-face communication such as touch, shared activities, eating and drinking together, and informal interactions are essential for sustaining social relationships existing in a distributed work. The findings of the article are relevant to this study since they enhance the significance of face-to-face communication in enhancing relationships in a distributed workplace.

Oberlo. “How Many People Have Smartphones in 2020?” 2020, https://www.oberlo.com/statistics/how-many-people-have-smartphones. Accessed 16 Jan. 2020.

The article that is published by Oberlo is about the number of people that own smartphones in 2020 across the globe. Although the objective is to highlight the growth in e-commerce, it can also be used to highlight the effective use of mobile technology in communication. Smartphones help people to access the Internet with ease at any time and anywhere. Individuals use mobile handsets to log into their social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram among other sites. Social media distracts people from concentrating on physical relationships and communication. Consequently, the research is relevant to this study since it can be used to relate the number of people owning smartphones and interpersonal communication.

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