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Why Your Cell Phone Is Bad for Your Relationship

Why Your Cell Phone Is Bad for Your Relationship

Is your cell phone screwing with your relationship?

This scenario might sound familiar: You’re home after work, updating your significant other on all the drama—that meeting about your promotion, that weird thing you overheard the receptionist saying, how everyone totally lost their minds when the decaf and regular coffee were accidentally switched—but you can’t help but feel like he’s not listening. Sure, he’s nodding and mhmm-ing once in a while, but his eyes are locked on a tiny screen in front of him. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap. Ah, the familiar sounds of someone distracted by their cell phone. We’ve all been there, whether with a partner or sitting across from a friend at dinner.

We all know it’s rude (even if we sometimes do it too), so it’s probably no surprise that it’s also bad for your relationship, as a recent study found. But did you know that even seeing a cell phone has a negative impact on how you connect with others?

Researchers at the University of Essex conducted an experiment in which they had pairs of strangers sit in booths together. Each booth had a book in it, plus another object—either a notebook or a cell phone. Then, the strangers spent 10 minutes sharing a story about something interesting that had happened to them in the past month. The researchers then questioned the pair about the interaction. The results? Even in a short 10-minute window, the pairs that were placed in a booth with a cell phone in it reported that they felt less close to their partner and reported a lower quality of relationship.

The researchers got the same result when they repeated the experiment, placing strangers in other environments and situation where there was a cell phone visible. So much for first impressions. And if the presence of a cell phone is getting in the way of our interactions with a new person telling an interesting story… well, then it’s no surprise that it also taints our interactions with the person we see every day (possibly telling a story we’ve heard before)—especially if we’re actively engaging with our cell phones. Our advice? Take the saying “out of sight, out of mind” to heart. Turn up the ringer in case you get an important call or text, and then put your cell away when you’re chatting with your partner or a friend. Make an effort to connect with the person in front of you, before your only companionship is Angry Birds.

Tell us in the comments: Do you put your cell phone away when you’re hanging out with friends or your partner? Does it bother you when someone else is checking or using their phone while you’re spending time together?




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9:55PM PST on Feb 11, 2015

Phone use stops when friends are around, when out on the town and during dinner.
It's rude to ignore people. Away with distractions when socializing!

9:55PM PST on Feb 11, 2015

Phone use stops when friends are around, when out on the town and during dinner.
It's rude to ignore people. Away with distractions when socializing!

12:34AM PST on Jan 22, 2013

I see to many times when people are sitting together or walking with each other and they are not present with each other because they are on the cell either texting {mostly} or yakking to someone other than the one they are with!!

12:18PM PST on Jan 7, 2013

Hot Hot Topic! -we're breaking new territory with this intricate phone capability,... and while there are so many people who are profiting economically from this tech-toy-invention, I'd have to say that many of the comments here reflect that we've created an avalanche of social and safety problems (-esp: driving). I like technology, but we put ALL (all that is marketed so far, that is,... ) OF IT 'out there' without any consideration as to the privacy issues (which the youth rarely respect, if you just listen to any conversation shouted out in public and there's no regard for those who enjoy their quite independence and personal privacy,.. ) -and absolutely, this just HAS to affect our communication when we're 'face to face' with our friends and loved ones. As mentioned, the youth accept it all as normal, for this is the world that was thrust up them, without guidance, without social awareness, especially of the possibility for misuse,... and as this article so well addresses, without the warnings of what happens to our relationships if technology is the preference over human contact in an authentic and meaningful communication and caring way. It's not only rude!, it's harmful, destructive, and EVEN, dangerous when people are 'unconscious' of all else around them.

11:53AM PST on Jan 7, 2013

We have a cell phone each - if we're out together, only ones of us takes a phone along (in case of urgent calls re family/friends). If we're home the phones are just put somewhere accessible (but not necessarily with us). If one of us is out, they take their mobile (in case of breakdown etc) ..... so we don't use them all that much normally. But when hubby goes on a "bikers weekend" then we're texting each other pretty frequently, just to "keep in touch" and ensure everything is ok. Can't understand people whose cellphone is like a "growth" on their ear, and don't even mention those using them whilst driving !!!!!!!!!

11:15AM PST on Jan 7, 2013

I use mine to make quick calls home and to be available to my daughter and parents. I never get on it and talk or text more than a couple of minutes when I am with others. I have a friend who frequently texts, updates facebook and surfs the web when we are together. It is the most unpleasant thing I know about her. She doesn't always do it but it seems that once she is in 'the cell phone zone', she uses it almost frantically. You have to tell her she is being rude - she hardly seems to realize it. Yes, I find it very annoying to be around people who are preoccupied with their phone.

11:31PM PDT on Oct 5, 2012

WOW--WOW. what will we do w/o them today.? I use my for emerg's only.

6:23AM PDT on Sep 20, 2012

I only bought a smart phone to avoid awkwardly looking at people in public places XD
Just kidding!
I like being connected and having so many features, and when hanging out by myself, I'd seem to most to be "glued" to my phone, but the minute I have company, it goes back to my handbag. I dont want to be "connected but alone" ;)

2:13AM PDT on Sep 19, 2012

millions of people all over the world are so into it...its funny that their cellphones are almost like part of their body that they cannot leave without it...when they wake up in the morning what do they look for first? its just surprising how these tiny machines have conquered the minds of many without even realizing it...they are missing the real essence of being a real friend, husband/wife, brother/sister because they all depend on wireless communication...

1:57PM PDT on Sep 17, 2012

Cell phones have made us "too available", and now some people have become addicted to their use ... much like the use of their computers and the Internet.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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