The Impact of Cell Phones on Interpersonal Communication

On a daily basis, we interact with different people such as friends, partners, family members, acquaintances, colleagues, and service providers. Usually, we do this without much thought or self-awareness unless an issue occurs or the relationship declines. In those instances, we suddenly realize the lack of communication between us and the other individual. It is probable that many of us have encountered relationships that dissolved because we were unable or unwilling to communicate effectively.

This chapter will focus on the process of dyadic (one-on-one), Electronically Mediated Interpersonal Communication.

We will explore various studies and topics related to this subject. Our discussion will start by examining cell phone usage processes and then move on to the role of communication in forming, maintaining, and ending relationships. Throughout, you will gain knowledge of new terms and theories and understand how they can be applied to your own relationships and communication skills using Electronically Mediated Interpersonal Communication.

Cell phones

Cell phones have become an essential aspect of our everyday lives and have significantly transformed the way we work, live, and love, according to a groundbreaking study commissioned by Motorola.

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Conducted in nine cities globally, from New York to London, this behavioral study utilized personal interviews, field studies, and observation to identify various behaviors exemplifying the profound influence cell phones have on interpersonal interactions.

The study discovered that cell phones provide individuals with a fresh personal power, granting them unparalleled mobility and the ability to manage their business while on the move. Interestingly, phone usage displays gender disparities.

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For women, their cell phone is seen as a tool for self-expression and social communication, whereas men tend to view it as an interactive toy. Some men even perceive cell phones as a status symbol, competing with other males to possess the most advanced device and employing it as a means to charm the opposite gender. The study identified two types of cell phone users - "innies," who use their phones discreetly, and "outies," who are louder and less concerned about those around them.

The report labeled today's teenagers "The Thumb Generation" due to their extensive use of cell phones for sending text messages with their thumbs on the phone's keypad. This has significantly impacted teenagers' thumb usage, to the point where some now use their thumbs to point and even ring doorbells, rather than their forefinger. These two-way text messaging devices have also given rise to a global understanding of abbreviated language among the younger generation, known as "generation text."

Cell phones have revolutionized long distance communication and made the world a global village through GSM phones that enable international calls. This technology has helped people of all ages transcend cultural and geographical barriers, proving that cell phones are not just for the younger generation. As an integral part of daily life worldwide, cell phones exemplify the power of mobile technology.

The widespread use of cell phones in our society has resulted in a frequent tendency to prioritize answering phone calls during personal interactions. This behavior is now viewed as a symbol of status (as illustrated by Kelly's call), rather than an interruption. Regrettably, this trend has also jeopardized the confidentiality of our conversations. Our private discussions are now easily accessible to anyone nearby, enabling them to eavesdrop and participate in our dialogues.

There are currently over 170 million users in the United States and this number is growing by 1 million every month.

Cell Phone Usage

The most important reasons for college students purchasing a cell phone were reported in a June 2000 Cellular One survey.

- 47% of emergencies

To get in touch with significant others (44%)

To stay connected with family members, 58% of people use various methods.

32% of people participate in social activities to coordinate.

According to the survey, students reported using their cell phones for the following reasons:

Optimize time by making calls while walking or driving, which accounts for 56.6% of the total.

Emergencies account for 35.5%.

- Organize and arrange social events (7.0%)

Juanita provides an illustration of how cell phones are used.

Participation Question: How do you react when someone uses their cell phone in a public place, like when you're seated in the theater ready to watch a movie and someone's phone rings? What is your response?

Have students jot down their responses and then discuss them with the rest of the class.

The content of the email messages

The Internet is a global electronic computer network made up of smaller networks. It functions as an information management system that connects individuals who share and search for information. It is also classified as Electronically Mediated Interpersonal Communication. The idea of connecting computers was accomplished in the 1960s, and by 1983, this network was named the internet. Within the internet, the World Wide Web serves as a medium for exchanging information.

Please search online for examples of internet-related terms.

Webpages, similar to book pages, consist of both text and images.

Websites are composed of webpages that belong to the same individual or group.

The home page is the initial page of a website.

Browser is a software program that enables users to search and browse the internet, granting them access to countless websites. Netscape and Internet Explorer are both well-known browsers.

A URL, also known as a Uniform Resource Locator, is the domain's path name.

The bookmark function allows users to save their favorite websites for later use.

Search engines such as google and yahoo are platforms that identify websites along with their corresponding URL's.

Provide statistics on internet usage in the United States. Write them on the board (Kelly).

The breakdown of internet usage among Americans is as follows:

67% of internet users are women

Men utilize the internet at a 69% higher rate compared to women

Now let's analyze internet usage by age as well:

18-29: 84%

The percentage of people aged 30-49 is 80%.

The text "

50-64 67%

" remains the same.

65+ means "65 and older," and it accounts for 26% of the population.

It is evident that the older generation has greatly decreased their use of modern electronic communication methods due to limited access in the past. In contrast, younger generations have integrated these devices into their daily routines as they have grown up with them.

Online communication through email has become an integral part of being connected on the internet. In the early 90's, email was mainly utilized for interoffice communication and had limited usage as a general means of correspondence. However, with the increasing number of teenagers online, approximately 75%, email has emerged as their primary method for one-on-one communication. Email offers two notable benefits: quick delivery and limitless messaging capabilities.

However, email differs from traditional mail by being accessible to the public rather than private. With appropriate software, almost any message can be intercepted and read. As a result, privacy is no longer a priority; convenience has become the main concern in our lives. This change in priorities is evident in our email communication. Our lives have become so fast-paced that we now condense words and ideas into simple letters, like B.F.N., which stands for BYE FOR NOW. Communication not only became shorter but also less meaningful. On a global scale, more than 36 billion emails are sent daily. It's important to remember that emails are a form of communication and should receive the same respect as any other public interaction.

When using this form of electronically mediated interpersonal communication, it's important to remember the following skills:


When communicating online, the use of precise and specific language is crucial because nonverbal cues such as tone of voice and facial expressions are almost nonexistent in the cyber world. Therefore, the words chosen when writing carry extra weight. For example, a simple expression of interest in meeting like "What do you say we get together sometime" lacks enough information or specificity. However, by providing details such as availability and a potential date for the meeting, the other person is more likely to take the invitation seriously. By transforming the invitation from an abstract idea into a tangible possibility, it increases the likelihood that the recipient will accept the offer to meet.

When composing an email, it is crucial to bear in mind that the manner in which you communicate holds equal significance to the content of your message. If your message lacks sufficient length, there is a greater likelihood of misunderstandings arising. To avoid this situation, it proves advantageous to incorporate precise details and examples that serve to elucidate any potential confusion.

It is important to effectively express your emotions during communication in order for the recipient to fully understand both the conveyed information and its impact on you. For example, if I were to send an email stating that I ran out of gas, hurt my toe, and arrived late to work, the reader may assume I had a difficult day without fully grasping the emotional implications. However, by providing more details such as "I had a terrible morning. While rushing out of the house, I accidentally smashed my toe against the wall, then ran out of gas while driving to work, resulting in me arriving 20 minutes late. I'm feeling extremely stressed and upset!" it would give the recipient a clear understanding of how emotionally challenging my morning was.

When communicating online, it is important to express ideas politely to avoid causing offense. Sometimes, we may unintentionally say hurtful things when we feel detached from the person we are conversing with. To illustrate this, let's consider a recent argument between Kyle and Chris. Instead of directly stating "Chris, I want to discuss what happened the other day", Kyle could rephrase it as "Chris, when you have time, I believe we should address the events of the other day. I deeply value our friendship and was wondering if you would be interested in meeting up to resolve any tensions." By expressing his desire for their friendship not to be affected by one disagreement and his intention for a peaceful resolution, Kyle ensures that there is no animosity between them.


When reading an email, it is helpful to say it out loud and not simply skim through it. This allows you to capture any nonverbal cues that may be missing from the written words on the page.

2. It is important to be considerate of the person's emotions. Although written messages may not convey a person's feelings effectively, we should still make an effort to understand and resonate with them. When someone we are deeply connected with sends us a message, it is expected that we empathize with them. Instead of solely focusing on the words themselves, we should try to envision how those words affect the sender by considering their overall persona. There may be instances where the meaning of a particular message remains unclear, and in such cases, perception checking can be useful. We should request clarification from the person to gain a better understanding of their intentions when a message is ambiguous or vague.

3. Before responding, make sure you paraphrase the main ideas. It is important to check your understanding. For example, if someone sent you an email saying "I talked to my boss and he mentioned that he plans to terminate my best friend's employment here", you can reply "It seems like you are angry with your boss for deciding to let go of your friend, and you also feel sorry for your friend's potential job loss - am I correct? The person can then confirm if you correctly understood the message.

4. It is important to be supportive when someone shares good news. Regardless of how they communicate their message, the person sharing the news expects to be understood. They anticipate a positive response in return.

5. It is self-explanatory to praise a person's accomplishments.

6. PROVIDE SUPPORT FOR SOMEONE IN PAIN - When someone we care about is hurting, it is important to offer them comfort. Although distance may make us less inclined to engage in their struggles, it is crucial to understand that they reached out because they need solace. Therefore, if a friend emails you saying "I've been having a tough week," remember their plea for comfort.

When someone says "My dog is sick, I'm behind on homework, and I haven't been myself lately", it is important not to ignore them but to offer support. Responding with "Man, that sucks" is not a good way to provide comfort. Instead, it is better to say "Wow, I'm so sorry. I really hope your dog is okay, and if you need any help with getting organized, let me know what I can do. I'm here for you, and you can call me if you ever need to just vent". This response shows that you care about their current situation and are willing to help.

Participation question: Please state how frequently you utilize your email account on a weekly basis. Kindly write down your response and then proceed with sharing it among the class.

The internet facilitates various types of interactions such as newsgroups and chat rooms, where millions of people communicate daily. Among them, teenagers are the most frequent users, as they find it easier to be themselves in online chats compared to face-to-face interactions.

This is because they are not afraid of the judgments people may pass on them. One unique aspect of the online world is the option to conceal your true identity. Numerous individuals establish a persona or cyber identity. Within this fictional realm, you have the liberty to become anything or anyone you wish. Nonetheless, this can also present an issue, as everyone else possesses the same ability.

Below are several definitions related to the topic:

Newsgroups are online platforms where people with similar interests can gather and engage in discussions.

Chat is an interactive exchange that occurs online between two or more individuals.

Lurking involves listening in on newsgroups or chat conversations, as demonstrated in the online example.

Flaming refers to a hostile or negative response to online content.

Participation question: Is anyone a member of a Newsgroup or enjoys chatting online? If so, how frequently do you engage in these activities?

Thomas provides an illustration of chat rooms.

Thanks to technological advances, chat rooms and internet dating services have allowed people to meet and interact with others they have never seen before. Typically, these individuals come together in a virtual room where they discuss various topics. Users who connect online often strive to turn these Electronically Mediated relationships (or EM relationships) into personal connections. If a person finds someone they are interested in, they may choose to move their conversation to a private chat room. In doing so, individuals have the opportunity to further build their relationship.

Two individuals may start communicating online and discover they have multiple commonalities. As their interest deepens, they may progress to phone conversations and ultimately decide to meet face-to-face. This encounter can lead to either a platonic friendship or a romantic connection.

According to statistics, 23.7% of individuals within a specific newsgroup or chatroom study reported communicating with their partner 3-4 times per week, while 55.4% communicated at least once a week. These electronic message (EM) relationships are appealing to individuals with busy lifestyles who find it challenging to engage in traditional socializing. Additionally, some individuals use EMC as a means to maintain their face-to-face relationships. Initially designed for business purposes, email has now become widely utilized by friends, family, and romantic partners to bridge the gap caused by time constraints or distance.

Instant Messaging is a popular tool for nurturing or building relationships. Despite living together, my brother and I find that we communicate more effectively through Instant Messenger, even when we are in different rooms at home. This doesn't mean that our relationship would suffer without internet communication, but it is a convenient way for us to stay updated on each other's lives while managing our tasks, such as homework, and interacting with others.

Electronic message communication (EMC) falls short of face to face communication in terms of efficacy, primarily due to its verbal nature. The loss or absence of intimacy in EMC has been a commonly discussed topic, particularly because the way we express our words holds more significance than their literal meaning. During class, Ms. Mallard provided the illustration of "I Love You", wherein typing those words may convey the message but fails to capture the underlying emotions and intentions. Although we label our electronic exchanges as "talking to people", the written words rarely carry as much meaning as we assume. Only through videoconferencing are we able to access the complete range of nonverbal messages.

Communication is most effective when both verbal and nonverbal messages are involved. Electronic media communication (EMC), which is conducted through keyboard entries, is slower compared to face-to-face conversations. Unless someone is exceptionally fast at typing like Super-Secretary, our thinking processes are faster than our typing speed. While this slower pace allows for more thoughtful responses, it also diminishes the spontaneity that is a critical aspect of in-person interaction.

The perception is that EM communicators are less supportive. Short messages can be interpreted in various ways and are often seen as impersonal. In face-to-face communication, the way a message is delivered accounts for 33% to 100% of its meaning. Many individuals turn to EMC to build or sustain relationships when they struggle to establish strong interpersonal connections in person. EMC allows some people to display proficiency in verbal communication and humor through writing, skills that may be lacking in face-to-face interactions. Certain people claim that EM relationships provide more satisfaction compared to face-to-face relationships.

Nowadays, there are more people online than ever before due to advancements in technology. This provides us with a wider range of individuals to meet. Additionally, some individuals are opting to stay home on Friday nights and communicate with their online partner instead of going out to clubs or bars. This may be because they feel more comfortable suppressing their need for group interaction in a less intimidating online environment. When conversing online, it becomes easier to express oneself as compared to face-to-face encounters. The initial awkwardness experienced during first conversations is virtually eliminated. Consequently, individuals feel more connected and relationships tend to develop more quickly in this manner.

Electronic communication plays a crucial role in forming and nurturing relationships.

Advancements in communication technologies have revolutionized the way we establish and sustain relationships. Before 1990, individuals primarily formed connections with those they had direct physical contact with. Meanwhile, dating services claimed to introduce people within the same community in just one week. Nowadays, people can easily connect with individuals worldwide in a matter of seconds.

From the online sphere to real-life connections

In face to face relationships, trust is developed gradually. However, it is more challenging to establish trust in electronic media (EM) relationships as certain communication channels can be quite uncertain.

Kelly provides an example involving Justine to illustrate the importance of trust.

Electronically Mediated Communication has a negative aspect that needs to be acknowledged.

Three main issues plague EMC.

EM communication poses various risks and potential abuse, such as the abuse of anonymity, which involves assuming a fictitious online persona, and dishonesty, where people commonly deceive others by lying about their sex, physical attributes, or even creating fictional careers and homes. This makes it easier for individuals to prey on unsuspecting victims in cyberspace. Unlike in-person relationships, where we can independently confirm people's identities, the limitations of EM communication prevent us from verifying the authenticity of information shared by our online partners.

Anonymity and dishonesty are a major worry in EM relationships formed by children. Back in 1998, there were seventeen million children aged two to eighteen online, a number that is predicted to increase even further. Additionally, addiction is becoming a growing concern. Another issue affecting both children and adults alike is technological addictions, which refer to non-chemical (behavioral) addictions that occur through human-machine interaction. Individuals who are addicted spend excessive amounts of time on the internet and start favoring their online relationships over real-life ones.

Technology has made significant advancements in connecting people around the world, giving us access to the entire globe with just a tap. With Electronically Mediated Communication (EMC), we can easily interact with someone in Ireland with a simple button press. However, it is crucial to recognize that the effectiveness of EMC in interpersonal communication depends on how we utilize it. Incorrect use of EMC can severely diminish the level of human closeness and invade the private nature of communication with loved ones, transforming it into a public matter.

Updated: Feb 16, 2024
Cite this page

The Impact of Cell Phones on Interpersonal Communication. (2016, Jul 22). Retrieved from

The Impact of Cell Phones on Interpersonal Communication essay
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