TRONDHEIM, Norway — Of IBM’s first smartphone From the early 1990s to Apple’s revolutionary iPhone, cell phones have become a necessity in many people’s lives. For millions, it’s practically an appendage. Today, approximately 3.8 billion people own a smartphone, nearly 50% of the world’s population. It is clear to many that addictive devices also cause breaches of social etiquette. Simply put, the urge to pull out a smartphone in the middle of a conversation with someone or while dining with a group of friends seems nearly impossible to resist.
Why? There is no app for that. But there is a study. Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have identified three possible reasons why people fidget with their smartphones in the presence of other people.
Advances in technology, such as the invention of apps and other tools for smartphones, have made it easier for people to control business and personal events on a single device. Smartphones, of course, are used to take photos, announce events on social media, schedule meetings, stay in touch, and many other tasks that happen daily. “This makes the smartphone important, both socially and sociologically,” says the study’s first author, postdoctoral fellow Ida Marie Henriksen.
And while they facilitate sociability, ironically, they can also get in the way of social time with others when people are face to face.
For the study, researchers visited several cafes and interviewed 52 people, asking specific questions about their use of smart devices and their interaction with others. “We focused exclusively on people who seemed to know each other from before and who met to socialize. In addition, we observed 108 other remote meetings, much like research flies on the wall,” says Marianne Skaar, Ph.D. candidate from the Department of Sociology and Political Science.
3 main reasons why people take out their smartphone when they are with others
Researchers have found that one of the reasons many use the phone in front of others is simply to check social media, email, or a text message conversation with another person. Such an interruption would normally be considered rude by the person physically present. However, they say a quick explanation of the pause in conversation before using the device was considered polite and acceptable.
The second reason people use their smartphones is to avoid conversation with another person. A person can pull out their phone to signal that they are busy or pretend to have a call to answer, even if the phone is on silent. “The smartphone provides a break from face-to-face social situations,” says Henriksen.
Finally, smartphones came out among other things to share content, such as photos or videos. “When you take a selfie together or show pictures of your new girlfriend or your kids, or the house you want to bid on, or the map of where you were on vacation, you are sharing content”, notes Aksel Tjora, professor. at NTNU.
Situations where a person is ordering or perhaps in the restroom provide a chance for the partner to quickly check their smartphone before resuming the physical conversation. “If you’re going to a coffee shop to be social, the person you’re with in real life is the focus,” Henriksen says.
The results are published in the journal Multidisciplinary institute of digital publishing.