From Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications VOL. 5 NO. 1
Cell Phone Use While Walking Across Campus: An Observation and Survey
When asked for any other feedback regarding the topic, students provided a number of responses. One student said, “I think that as a society we do rely on instant communication. It has become a blessing and a curse at the same time. Sometimes we do need times to decompress and get away from social media,” while another student simply claimed, “This is depressing.” Two separate respondents mentioned how time abroad has changed their opinion on cell phone use. One student said, "Meals with friends, hanging out with my host family, and other activities with other people are much more enjoyable without everyone looking at their phone. I hope that living abroad without being able to use my phone will make me use my phone less when I return to the States.” Another student responded, “When I was abroad it was such a relief to not be on my phone all the time and when I was on vacation. I wish I could feel like I could have that relief all the time but you are at such a disadvantage to not have your phone because you miss out on things.”
Two additional responses mentioned how students either worry, or have hope for the future in relation to cell phone behaviors. One student said, “The trend of cell phone addiction will only get worse,” while the second claimed, “I think [it’s] the change that is happening, and when our generation has kids, this won’t be an issue anymore.” Another student mentioned one possible impact of excessive cell phone use: “People often forget how to interact face-to-face because we use technology as a crutch to avoid true interaction.” The overall opinion of the majority of student’s surveyed was that they are aware of the behaviors of themselves and their peers. It appears that the addiction is real: young adults are influenced by the negative psychological effects associated with excessive cell phone use and self-gratification.
Observations and a survey of student’s on Elon’s campus showed that Elon is not an exception to the phenomenon that cell phone addiction is affecting many young adults. People are becoming more aware of their own personal habits and behaviors regarding interaction with their devices, and some people believe the obsession surrounding instant and constant communication will diminish by the time Generation Y parents have their own children. Some people claimed that these addictive behaviors and habits arise because they don’t want to be disconnected from their friends and family. They need to have their cell phones so they are able to respond, or reach out to people instantly, and impulsively. Others believe that the use of technology to communicate has decreased our ability to communicate with one another in person. As one survey participant put it, “I think people often forget how to interact face-to-face because we use technology as a crutch to avoid true interaction.”
All it takes to see the truth behind this is observe families and friends at a restaurant. Try to find one group of the targeted individuals who can go the entire duration of their meal without reaching for their cell phone. People also tend to feel much more comfortable behind the screen of a cell phone than in the presence of another person. This is where people lose the ability to face difficult issues and have vocal confrontations with one another. Scientific studies and surveys have shown that there are negative psychological effects related to cell phone addiction. Many young adults need validation that they are pretty or popular, and they use social media, accessed through most cell phones to achieve this self-gratification. Many individuals feel a heightened level of stress and anxiety when they are with their phones, because they are so used to constantly having instant access to communication; others feel free without them because it gives them a chance to disconnect and think their own thoughts without interruption. Overall, it is clear that many members of Generation Y are aware of addictive behaviors they picked up and the accompanying negative consequences.
This author would like to extend a special thanks to Dr. Copeland at Elon University for his constant support and advice. Thanks to his guidance and supervision over the course of the semester, the author has grown as a writer, and is honored to have the article published in the Elon Journal.
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Appendix: Field Observations of students on four campus locations