If you wish to get to know someone better, than you should leave the cell phone behind. Although we use cell phones as a way to feel closer with family members, to
express care for others, and to be available to others, a recent study demonstrated that the mere presence of cell phones can interfere with human relationships, inhibiting the development of interpersonal closeness and trust, and reduced the extent to which individuals felt empathy and understanding from their partners.

cell_phone_towerThe effect of a phone innocuously placed on a table next to two people chatting is shown to have negative effects on closeness, connection, and conversation quality, even if it is not your cell phone! What causes this apparently unconscious response is unclear. It could be because we are primed to think about the broad social networks we can tap into with our phones, suffocating our in-person conversation, or our implicit associations with phones as a tether to external factors may repress our attention to the conversational partner we are with.

Our technology has a dark side; an insidious impact upon our capacity to engage with people, as I have suggested previously, referencing Louis C. K. here and a twenty-first century adaptation of Cogito here, for example. Smart phones are a remarkable and, generally, positive development in social interaction, but we must be diligent in our negotiation with its utility: Do we control our phones, or do they control us?