Social Disadvantages of Mobile Phones

Updated March 23, 2017

It seems as if mobile phone owners are constantly chatting, texting, surfing the Web and playing games on their devices. Some wonder if the popularity of the mobile phone has caused people to become less social. After all, when people are busy choosing a new ringtone, they're not making small talk with the other people sitting next to them on the bus.

The Demise Of Conversation?

A study by Harvard researcher Robin Abrahams added fuel to the debate that mobile phones, along with iPods and other small "smart" devices, have caused people to socialise less. In her report, Abrahams said that people become shyer over time as they spend more hours plugged into their mobile phones. They forget, essentially, how to communicate with the strangers they encounter on the street. In the past, people would ask their bus or train mates how their days were going. Now, these same people will instead spend the entire commute reading sports scores or catching up on celebrity gossip with their smart phones' Internet browsers.

Dependant Behavior

A 2007 study by Val Hooper and You Zhou, both with Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, found that many college students' use of mobile phones could be considered dependent behaviour. This means that these students frequently checked their cell phones for missed messages, used them to text friends and relied on them to scan Web pages throughout every day. In the study, some respondents admitted that they can't change their mobile-phone behaviour even though friends and family members have told them that they use their phones too often. This type of behaviour can hinder the socialising skills of mobile phone users, the study said.


Not everyone agrees that mobile phones make people less social. A 2009 study by the Pew Internet Personal Networks and Community concluded that new technology such as smart mobile phones did not cause people's social skills to erode. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that these technologies are even helping students learn in different ways. Smart phones encourage students to collaborate more freely on research projects and other assignments, the study said.

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About the Author

Don Rafner has been writing professionally since 1992, with work published in "The Washington Post," "Chicago Tribune," "Phoenix Magazine" and several trade magazines. He is also the managing editor of "Midwest Real Estate News." He specializes in writing about mortgage lending, personal finance, business and real-estate topics. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Illinois.