The University of Michigan study counters concerns that cell phones are replacing in-person social contact and detracting from civic and community involvement. The research suggests that cell phones may help some people become more socially involved with clubs and community organizations.
“Voice calling and texting complement in-person interactions and help fill in the gaps between in-person gatherings, keeping the cell phone user updated,” said Scott Campbell, assistant professor of communication studies and study’s lead author.
Campbell, who co-authored the study with Nojin Kwak, associate professor of communication studies, analyzed how local and distant cell phone use patterns are related to face-to-face engagement with others and their communities. People who called and text-messaged others within 25 miles tended to also spend face-to-face time together.
The study’s results are based on responses from 587 adults who had personal cell phones or other wireless devices. Respondents were asked about group involvement, spending time with or around others in a social setting, cell phone habits and distance of their contacts.
According to the authors, “More organized forms of social engagement often involve a broader range of interaction, with individuals being connected to organizations, acquaintances in those organizations and perhaps even strangers with whom they do not have ongoing contact.”
Follow-up studies are needed to determine outcomes for cell phone users in other countries and individuals younger than 18, “who in their own ways have been pioneers of mobile communication practices,” Campbell said.
The findings appear in this month’s issue of New Media & Society.
Contact: Jared Wadley
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