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Is This Little Device Hurting Your Relationships?

I’m the first to admit it: I’m addicted to my cell phone. That crisis-thwarting godsend helps me put out about fifteen fires a day, and when you’re busy – as many of us are – being connected and accessible is key. But I’ve actually been learning to take a step back from the iPhone when it’s time for connecting in the real world, and here’s why.

A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships shows that the mere presence of a cell phone during intimate conversations undermines trust among participants. Isn’t that interesting?

Strangers were paired up for both casual and intimate conversations in private booths. During half of these conversations, a cell phone was visible on the table; the other half of the time, a notebook (the paper kind) was visible. Following the 10-minute conversations, researchers asked participants questions about the “relationship quality” with their discussion partners. It turns out, the presence of a cell phone had no impact at all as long as the conversation was light and casual. But participants reported feeling less trust, and interpreted their partner as less empathetic during the more meaningful conversations, if a phone was in the vicinity. And these folks weren’t even engaging with the phones―no texting, answering emails, or tweeting.

Next time you’re out, I challenge you to stash the cell phone during your conversations and see how much your interactions are enhanced. I promise your texts and emails will be there for you when you return.

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