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Cell Phones May Lead to Social Disconnections

Profound new research suggests compulsive use of cell phones may paradoxically, diminish social connectivity for some users. Moreover, as phones evolve into smart accessories, communicating with others is often no longer the phone’s central purpose.

In this digital age, the ubiquity of a cell phone and the ability to obtain near constant communication would on face value appear to make us feel closer to one another.

Kent State University researchers, however, discovered that may not be the case. In fact, cell phone use might actually lead to feeling less socially connected, depending on your gender or cell phone habits.

In the study, Andrew Lepp, Ph.D., Jacob Barkley, Ph.D., and Jian Li, Ph.D., surveyed 493 students, ranging in age from 18-29. They wanted to know whether cell phone use — including texting and talking — was associated with feeling socially connected to their parents and peers.

The results show a significant difference between men and women.

Female students reported spending an average of 365 minutes per day using their cell phones, sending and receiving an average of 265 texts per day, and making and receiving six calls per day.

Male students reported spending less time on their phone (287 minutes), sending and receiving fewer texts (190), and making and receiving the same amount of calls as the female students.

For the women, the study found that talking on the phone was associated with feeling emotionally close with their parents. However, when it came to relationships with friends — texting, rather than talking — was associated with feeling emotionally close.

For the men, the opposite holds true — daily calling and texting were not related in any way to feelings of emotional closeness with either parents or with peers.

Researchers also looked at problematic use, which is a recurrent craving to use a cell phone during inappropriate times — such as driving a car, or at night when you should be sleeping.

For both the men and women, the study found that problematic cell phone use was negatively related to feelings of emotional closeness with parents and peers.

“In other words, the students in the study who tended to use their cell phones compulsively and at inappropriate times felt less socially connected to parents and peers than other students,” Lepp said.

Phone communication appears to have a gender specific purpose.

Researchers believe the study suggests that the phone may have more social value for women compared to men, and women may be better at using it to augment or complement existing social relationships.

As for problematic use, Lepp says given the cell phone’s many other functions, communicating with one another may no longer be the phone’s central purpose. As such, Lepp believes cell phones are now replacing more meaningful forms of relationship building, such as face-to-face communications for both genders.

Source: Kent State University

Cell Phones May Lead to Social Disconnections

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Cell Phones May Lead to Social Disconnections. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 18 Aug 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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