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Phones Make Us Jerks, but We Love Them Anyway

Phones > everything.

Rawpixel Ltd / iStock

Phones > everything.

New data from the Pew Research Center found that while the vast majority of people (82 percent) agree that using a phone in social settings “frequently or occasionally hurts the conversation,” most of us (89 percent) don’t seem to care and use our phones anyway.

The most popular reasons we look down at our screen: To read a text or email (61 percent), to take a photo or video (58 percent) or to send a message (52 percent).

In defense of humanity, not all of this phone time is necessarily bad. One third of people polled say that phone use can “contribute” to the conversation, which does make sense. For example, people use their phones to look things up for the group or to get directions. Plus, we wouldn’t have nearly as many selfies or #tbt photos to post later on if we all kept our phones in our pockets; nearly half of those polled said they use their phones to post photos or videos.

As you probably guessed, younger people (i.e., those who grew up with cellphones) are less bothered by the trend. Of those older than 50, 45 percent say cellphone use “hurts the group,” compared to just 29 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds.

As you also probably guessed, some people out there simply use their phones to avoid whatever it is you have to say. Pew found that 16 percent of people used their phone because they were “no longer interested in what the group was doing,” 15 percent wanted to “connect with others outside of the group” and 10 percent use a phone to avoid group conversations altogether.


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