The “Cell-Phone Shield” Effect

24 Oct

Over the summer, my father and I went to Bush Upholstery, a small, family-owned business in our neighborhood.  A trip to Bush Upholstery is never short.  Mr. Bush, 85 years old and energetic, keeps you in the store for 20 extra minutes telling you stories.  During my most recent visit to Bush Upholstery, Mr. Busch mentioned he heard a statistic: 13% of cell phone owners pretend to use their phone to avoid confrontation with other people[1].  I found this fact hard to believe, but after thinking about our world today this phenomenon seems reasonable.  Later, I told my friends about this fact and at one point we had pretended to check our phones for text messages or new emails to avoid interacting with other people.  I’ve noticed when I’m waiting for a class to start, the campus circulator to arrive, or my food to be prepared at Bear’s Den, it is easier to use my cell phone as a barrier than to open myself up to potentially awkward or unwanted interaction.

Ironically, we live in a world where we are constantly connected to others via email, cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media devices.  These tools promote constant interaction; however, when we are face-to-face with others we shy away.  Could our introversion be a consequence of the hyper-connected world we live in?  Are we too comfortable with remote connections that we fear physical interaction?

Looking back at the situation over the summer in Mr. Bush’s upholstery shop, I understand why Mr. Bush was surprised by this trend; he grew up in an era when connecting through technology was not an option.  In fact, I think we could learn a lesson from Mr. Bush: embrace those around you instead of hiding behind technology.

by Elizabeth Crowell


[1] Pew Research Center’s Internet  & American Life Project

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