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Are Smartphones Killing Conversation?

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In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and forever changed the way that people communicate. Since then, the phone has grown smaller, smarter and more versatile. From the huge box on the wall to a small rectangle that fits into your pocket, phones are more prevalent and accessible and useful than ever. But, despite the fact that more than 90% of Americans have cell phones, communication seems to be lagging more than ever.

I recently stumbled across a couple of studies, most of which were published last year, that indicate that the mere presence of a cell phone can actually decrease the quality of conversation between two people. In the study, those who engaged in conversation with their phones on the table or in their hands felt less connected and invested in the conversation and conversation partner, as opposed to people who kept the devices in their pockets throughout the conversation.

Personally, I can’t remember the last time that I had a conversation with someone under 40 who didn’t, at some point during our chat, pull out or glance at their smartphone. I admit I’m even guilty of it on occasion. Depending on who you talk to, cell phone use (which rarely actually includes, ya know, talking) is, at best, a distraction and means of escape from others and at worst a full-on addiction. But even that is controversial, and no one seems to be able to agree on exactly how smartphones are changing conversations. The one thing we are sure about is that smartphones are definitely changing the way people communicate.

But, is that a bad thing? Cell phone etiquette is constantly changing and seems to be different for each generation. Many younger people I have spoken with see nothing wrong with sending a quick text mid-conversation. Some other generations tend to consider even having a phone out during face-to-face conversation extremely rude and evidence of cell phone addiction. Personally, I know plenty of people who can’t seem to focus on what’s going on around them simply because of their smartphones, so I find myself firmly falling in the second category.

So tell me, what do you think? Are phones killing conversation, or helping people communicate better? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!