Study finds smartphone use undermines enjoyment of face-to-face social interactions

New research suggests that smartphones can lead to distraction, which ends up undermining the benefits of social interaction.

“In the last 10 years, smartphones have revolutionized how we live by keeping us constantly connected online,” said study author Ryan Dwyer of the University of British Columbia. “We wanted to know if this might be impacting our real world social interactions. For example, my family often spends holidays looking at our phones together. Is this bad?”

The research, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, consisted of two separate studies.

For their first study, which included 300 participants, the researchers had Canadians eat a meal at a restaurant together with 3 to 5 friends or family members. Participants were randomly assigned into one of two groups: some placed their phones on the table, the others put their phones away during the meal.

The participants and their friends or family then completed a survey after the meal.

The researchers found that people rated the meal as less enjoyable and said they were more distracted when phones were present.

In a second study with another 123 participants, the researchers surveyed people 5 times a day for one week. They found people reported lower enjoyment and reported feeling more distracted when they used their smartphones during face-to-face social interactions.

“Using your phone during social interactions can decrease how much you enjoy them,” Dwyer said.

In both studies, phone use was associated with greater boredom and worse overall mood.

“This effect may be most pronounced when there is a mismatch in phone use between members of the group (e.g. one person in the group is using their phone, while other members in the group are not),” Dwyer told PsyPost. “Further research is needed to confirm this.”

“Phones are great tools, but people should be mindful about when and where they use them!”

The study, “Smartphone use undermines enjoyment of face-to-face social interactions“, was co-authored by Kostadin Kushlev and Elizabeth Dunn.