USF research uncovers some young people now even find phone calls intrusive
TAMPA, Fla. (June 23, 2015) – New research from the University of South Florida reveals just how much young people prefer mobile technology over face-to-face communication, even in intimate relationships. The recently published study details how cell phones alter communications, distract from in-person conversations and in some cases remove face-to-face relationships completely.
The study is co-authored by Loyd Pettegrew, a professor in the Department of Communication at USF and Carolyn Day, assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the Savannah College of Art & Design, who recently received her doctorate in communication from USF. It’s titled “Smart Phones and Mediated Relationships: The Changing Face of Relational Communication” and has been published in The Review of Communication.
“There is a shift in the tectonic plates of human relationship among young people that many academic researchers are only beginning to understand,” Pettegrew explained. “We used to value and use face-to-face, verbal authenticity as the gold standard for relationship development, but this is being replaced by mobile technologies where being there genuinely is less important than being kind-of-there all the time, and many young people feel that voice calls on their smart phones are intrusive. Mobile media now shape young people’s worlds and the way they prefer to live.”
The study presents data that shows young people are moving away from the more traditional ways we develop and maintain close relationships. Instead, they prefer and rely on mobile technology, even with romantic partners.
The research suggests that speech is taking a backseat to texting as the preferred form of communication in young people who cite ease, convenience, the ability to hide their true feelings and to avoid others knowing who they are with as advantages of communicating through mobile technology.
Nearly 80 percent of respondents agreed that mobile devices have greatly or moderately altered the way they conduct interpersonal communication with friends. One respondent wrote about mobile technology, “I can avoid embarrassing moments. Hide nervousness. Exude more confidence.”
More than 10 percent of respondents say that mobile devices get in the way of their in-person communications. One respondent wrote, “When you are face to face with someone you are not necessarily in the moment with them due to checking your phone.”
Six percent of those surveyed admit mobile devices are the only way they communicate with friends.
While previous studies have suggested this trend, researchers say this is the first to provide qualitative and quantitative data confirming it. The authors surveyed 526 students at USF to gather data for the study, which is a compliment to the Pew Research Center’s work on the heavy use of mobile technology among young people.
The University of South Florida is a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success. USF is a Top 50 research university among both public and private institutions nationwide in total research expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. Serving nearly 48,000 students, the USF System has an annual budget of $1.5 billion and an annual economic impact of $4.4 billion. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.