6 Ways How Smartphones Are Affecting Our Conversations

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For one of my assignments this semester, we were asked to conduct participant observations on any selected field site. Being avid cafe-hoppers, it was almost natural for me and my partner (ms cheesetofu!) to choose a cafe for our field site. (And obviously, to sip on coffee and make merry with waffles along the way.) One of the more popular cafes that we've both never gone before was Wimbly Lu Chocolates - so onto the land of waffles and chocolate we go!

Yeah I know, bad fringe from months ago. Sigh.
The title of the post doesn't leave much room for imagination on what this post is about... smartphones are a huge distraction to our conversations very much. What I didn't expect was the extent it was affecting other people, and how these electronic devices are extremely central to many of the conversations. I have to apologize for eavesdropping on a lot of conversations around me, but this was an assignment requirement (not being intrusive, but to understand what was going on) - and it's nothing personal! Just... well, finding out more about how people interact with one another. Here is also a shoutout for those who have always wondered what Sociology majors do... yeah, we sniff around surreptitiously while people mill about their usual businesses. We eliminated the possibility of confirmation bias (ie. looking for evidence to fit what we think we might see) as we entered the scene with an open mind about what we can find. That's really the whole point of doing research anyway. 
So here are six ways how smartphones (or similar electronic devices) can be very disruptive:
Having normal conversations while scrolling through their timelines.

1. Diffusing awkward situations, killing romance

This further proves how dating and romance has obviously reached an all-time new low. Out of so many couples that we've observed, nearly four in five younger couples turned to their smartphones whenever a slightly protracted silence pops up, whenever someone finishes their meal faster and doesn't want the responsibility of coming up with the next conversation topic. Isn't that the whole point of dating to look into each other's eyes and talk?
Photo credits: businessinsider.com
2. Discussing about apps
I try not to put value judgment on what I see, but it gets difficult sometimes. The first point goes into my own unacceptable zone, but this second point goes into a positive direction. Conversations sometimes revolve around the types of photo-taking apps or new apps they have recently downloaded and found useful. Such active sharing and conversation topics are very relevant because our smartphones are practically appendages of our body right now.
Someone's Instagram.
3. Obsessing over Instagram
I feel like I could blog an entire post about this itself, because the world gets so ridiculous these days over Instagram... *wait for it* "I can't even..." I have to admit, I am ridiculous over Instagram and phototaking sometimes... but I am always amazed by the levels of excitement people can have over it. The enthusiasm over it in a cafe seems to multiply by ten folds. There were girls sashaying in, taking photos at every angle of the cafe, changing their hairstyles, poses, permutations of food and humans, permutations of angles and poses, seating arrangements... you get me. Not an exaggeration at all.
This was a food tasting session, hence the extra fervor over photo-taking.

4. Documenting every cafe moment
I am supposed to not judge... but okay, I do this too. High-five, oops. However, sometimes people get so preoccupied with doing this, they don't interact with one another at all. Although they are at the same table, they don't speak to each other about anything other than assessing their photo-taking results, it was almost as if they don't know each other.
Non-stop Instagramming, limited conversations.
5. Because hands don't know where to go now
Another disturbing sight is how conversations now happen over two smartphones screens between two people engaging one another. We might be in an era of multi-tasking, but how does connection happens like that? I'm not sure how they could actually be scrolling through their Twitter/Instagram/Facebook timelines and asking about how each other's week went... and not feel offended. They were totally cool with that. That's just one couple though, and perhaps that's how they roll.

Photo credits: imenucards.com
6. Phones within the field of vision
Even if they don't hold their phones in their hands, they've got to have it somewhere within reach for some kind of security. Some people are expecting important calls, messages... or their job requires them to be accessible 24/7. But it does gets distracting when people starts checking their phones mid-conversation whenever a flashing notification comes up. 

I try to put my phone on flight-mode all the time -  not because I'm ultra polite, but because I want to conserve battery on my smartphone and the feeling of unplugging is awesome. This post is not meant to slam anyone - it's probably extremely common right now that everyone's doing the same thing. So what are some of your smartphone habits you practice when you are at a restaurant or cafe with friends? 

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20 comments

  1. I feel as if these are inevitable nowadays :( it's really hard to have a good hangout without people reaching for their phones every few minutes.. sigh

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    1. Yeah!! It's so annoying, but if I were with my close friends, I'll tell them off straight in their face :P

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  2. Very good observation, recently I was on a trip to a very beautiful place and all everybody was interested was clicking by phone and uploading on instagram as if the whole world is waiting for your post to go live.

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    1. The obsession with Instagram is real... :(

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  3. I've thought about this so much... my phone is always next to me... ALWAYS! One rule in our house is: No phones/tablets/electronic gadgets at the dinner table! It was so hard to have a real conversation to start with because we are so used to having electronic gadgets around. It is the one time of day that none of us have any distractions.

    Beth

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    1. That's a great rule to have. Nowadays people don't really talk, they just jab at their screens instead.

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  4. Phones have been reducing talking time between people meeting. I really try to ignore my phone when I am with people.

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    1. Yeap... that's not a good direction we're heading. There are certain things we still need to keep in mind, like good conversations.

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  5. A good post to read this chilling morning. you have good observation here. what I hate most is that people with phones tends first take a photo of what they would be eating instead of first giving thanks to God for the foods at hand. ha,ha,ha...

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    1. It's pretty chilly here in Singapore too! ;) For food bloggers, cameras have to dine first before anything..

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  6. Really I've got your points here but it seems true. But I think, proper time, proper place and proper use of this personal thing.

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    1. Yes, agreed (: Phones should only be used when we're alone, not in the presence of others..

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  7. Guilty and I am very conscious about it now. I realize how awkward and unsightly it looks. My new year resolution is: I will keep my phone when I am at the dining table with others.

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  8. Sadly this is what is happening these days...less talk, less romance and believe me --- some of my friends prefer to play Plants and Zombies even we are in a post dinner conversation. It sucks right?

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    1. Yeah.. conversations after dinner are gold. It's the things that we remember years to come, not some phone game.. :(

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  9. I'm pretty guilty for this one because I'm always on my phone but when I'm with my friends or someone else, I try not to hold mine. I'm quite guilty for the Instagram part but I only take a few shots and puts away my phone to join the conversation among my friends. I believe that the only time it affects us is when we abuse it. It's okay to have the phone beside the table while we are with friends, or even take a few shots like what I do, as long as the person does not hold it the entire time he or she's with someone else. That's rude.

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    1. Yup!! From my observations, even though I found it rude, it doesn't seem to be the case for others... they seem to treat it as a normal behaviour, which deserves some further studying as to why...

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  10. Finger muscles are more well developed that vocal chords these days :) it is so difficult to complete a conversation today without being disturbed by a ping of a message or call on the phone!

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    1. Hahah! That's a really witty way of putting it... it's really quite disruptive, so I like putting it on flight-mode.

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