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Thinking critically about our connections with our phones

One day I forgot my phone. I was supposed to meet someone after work, but, as is typical in the age of cell phones our version of concrete plans was, I’ll text you when I leave and let you know where I’ll meet you. This obviously wasn’t going to work when I didn’t have my phone so I left a message with detailed instructions about when I was leaving, what direction I was going to be walking from, even what side of the road I would walk on, so that we could meet up and continue to our destination.

Admittedly, this scenario caused some stress, but did it relate to my separation from my phone, or because we are too indecisive to make proper plans these days. Oh, and probably in there somewhere is the anxiety associated with being marginally disconnected when we can normally reach each other 24/7.

I just read a study about people who felt higher anxiety when they were separated from their iPhones. From an Apple perspective, this research is great. It says have your phone on you all the time or you’ll be more stressed. But is that really the case?

The thing about this particular study, published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, is that they put the phones on the other side of the room from the participants and then called the phone. This caused them stress. But of course it did. If you are doing something so that you can’t answer the phone and you hear it ring, it’s stressful. In the control, they didn’t call the cell phones, even though the phone was within reach of the participant. Would the results have been any different if they had called their phones when they could reach them, but didn’t let them answer? Would it have been any different if they had put them in the room with any phone, and then caused it to ring while they were performing the assigned task?

So, I have experienced some anxiety associated with missing my cell. But to say that this article proved that separation from your phone causes anxiety and poor psychological performance is a big leap to me. There are too many other factors that were not controlled for. And as far as my stress goes, perhaps I should just make more of an effort to make concrete plans in advance and then stick to them.

Clayton, R., Leshner, G., & Almond, A. (2015). The extended iSelf: The impact of iPhone separation cognition, emotion, and physiology. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/jcc4.12109/asset/jcc412109.pdf?v=1&t=i4oraqtp&s=a18b3bc2ea2acd0ca5a3b8e9af4337a74e82bee8.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.


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