Looking for love this Valentine’s Day? While online dating and new technology often brings couples together, Virginia Tech expert Shalini Misra says that the presence of a mobile device during a face-to-face conversation can affect the quality of the social interaction.
“The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices,” published in the journal Environment & Behavior, found that with the presence of a mobile device, people have the constant urge to seek out information, check for communication, and direct their thoughts to other people and worlds.
“The usage of phones during in-person interactions, especially during meals, has been negative for empathy and feelings of connectedness and it may not be as simple as keeping your phone out of sight because you could still be distracted and thinking about your phone.”
“Meaningful conversations require attentive participants. We need to listen to the words, tone and pauses, observe facial cues and body movements, and think about what we are hearing to understand what it means, and respond appropriately.”
“If our attention is split, conversations will suffer. Conversation partners can feel snubbed by our divided attention and lose interest in the conversation. People who are friends feel especially irked when they perceive inattentiveness. It could be that people notice that their friends, colleagues, or partners, place their phone on the table, indicating that they do not intend to give complete attention to them.” “Some people use their phones as security blanket in social situations and may be alienated without it. But having it out of sight does help and lowers the probability of constant digital distractions.”
“Empathy requires us to slow down, process information thoughtfully, think our own thoughts, and express them coherently. Removing digital technologies during dates can help foster thoughtful reflection that could be better for the quality of relationships.”
Shalini Misra is an assistant professor in the Urban Affairs and Planning program in the National Capital Region. Her research interests include the social, psychological, and health implications of the Internet and digital communication technologies.
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