The Detrimental Impact of Cell Phones on Interpersonal Connections: Unveiling the Erosion of Relationships

Last week I was looking forward to spending some long-awaited quality time with a friend. This was an opportunity for them to share their hopes and dreams for their future, their family, their faith and who they wanted to be. For me I wanted to share some things on my heart. This moment in time was ruined because of a cell phone call.
We were just opening up to each other about where we would see ourselves in the next 9-12 months. We could be living close to each other or possibly far away. This has been a topic I really wanted to connect on. Distance between us will have a big impact on our relationship. In my mind, this was important for us to discuss. The mood was dashed when they answered their phone. It wasn’t an emergency. They would see the person on the phone when we finished our walk. They had spoken to each other earlier in the day. They continued to talk while I walked behind. At times, I thought I was being spoken to, only to hear their cell phone conversation still going on. It was evident the call was going to continue, and the prospect of connecting was gone – like the seeds of a dandelion in a large gust of wind, scattered about here and there.
I decided to walk ahead of them and go home. When they caught up to me at my house because that is where we started from, they asked me why I left. To their surprise, my response was, “ You were on the phone the entire time!”
I admit I was deeply hurt. I felt de-valued, not appreciated, and unimportant. The call took precedence over me, in the moment, in the flesh, walking right next to them.
This is not the first-time cell phones have impacted the chance to interact with other people in the room, sitting at the table or standing next to me. Frequently I host family holiday dinners and want this time to be special with real meaningful conversations. One year as we sat at the table together, several guests had their phones out and were texting. This broke my heart. What message was being conveyed to the rest of the people at the table? What message were the young children seeing and are going to ultimately copy-cat?
After the walking incident, I did some research and learned a new word “technoference”, which is the potential interference smartphones and other technologies can have in our face-to-face social interactions. Allow me to insert a disclaimer. I believe in technology. It has made great advances and offers benefits that were unavailable a mere 20 years ago. It is here to stay. In this article, I want to focus on the misuse, overuse, and interruption of cell phones and the detrimental impact it has on others and your relationships:
  • Being with a group of people who are using their cell phones can cause an increase in the feeling of being isolated. There is a lack of conversation and interaction.
  • A text message is entirely left up to interpretation by the person who receives it. A simple word or phrase can be construed to be mean, ugly, or spiteful.
  • Another type of isolation can be experienced by the user themselves. The more time individuals spend online, the less time they spend in person with family and friends.
  • Other symptoms include fear of missing out, (FOMO), lack of acceptance and deep longing to belong.
  • Cell phones are also responsible for sleep deficit due to excessive nighttime use.
  • Bullying is at an all-time high. Hurtful text messages are sent without the sender seeing the hurt and pain they inflict. They do not develop the skill of empathy and standing in someone else’s shoes.
  • Cell phones are known to cause greater relationship conflict and lower relationship satisfaction.
  • Picking up and using your cell phone at the grocery store, in a doctor’s office or at home in bed can leave family members, close friends, romantic partners, children and even strangers feeling ignored and not valued.
  • Public cell phone usage can create a feeling of intrusion on someone else’s conversation even though they are the ones using their cell phone.
  • Increased feelings of rejection
  • Personal cell phone usage during work related activities destroys professionalism.
  • Higher levels of unworthiness
  • Lack of faith in the value, meaning and purpose of the relationship
  • Broken trust and confidence
  • Excessive cell phone use can lead to depressive symptoms, anxiety and increased risk of suicide-related behaviors and mental health problems.
Stop allowing your cell phone to damage your relationships. Deep and meaningful relationships come from in-person interactions, focusing on the person you are with and being uninterrupted by technology. It is important to connect with the people right next to you, put the big world on hold while you get to know, understand, and interact with those who are in the room with you. Lets’ build each other up. Put the cell phone down. Make some’s day, make them feel important by looking in their eyes, and having a true heart-to-heart conversation.
I think this year for my holiday dinner, I will recycle a text I used to limit cell phone usage. It read “Pick up your cell phone at the dinner table and I’ll fork ya. Just sayin.”
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