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Friday, August 22, 2014 | Last updated: 10:42am

Put down the phone, get to know friends in real life



As the alluring Tucson sun peers over the beautiful mountains and shines its light on the palm trees scattered across the UA campus, students walking to class are captivated by… their Facebook newsfeeds.

Administrators, especially at large universities like the UA, have made it a point to encourage students to become more than “just a number,” and yet we remain obsessed with having thousands of Facebook friends or Twitter followers.

According to China Youth Daily, a survey collected 1,721 questionnaires in an attempt to uncover the younger generation’s inadequacy when it comes to face-to-face interaction. An overwhelming 85 percent agreed that the younger generation is not capable of dealing with social encounters because they rely too much on virtual communication.

“Face-to-face is the most direct way of communicating,” said Li Yuhuan, a doctor from the psychological department of the Qingdao Mental Health Center. “Constantly being on your cell phone while spending time with friends and family will definitely have a bad effect on your relationships with them.”

Technology has reduced being “friends” with someone to a simple click of the mouse, which has compromised our interactions in daily life. Our media presence has progressed from sharing bumper stickers on Facebook walls to recording every moment of our lives, right down to what we had for dinner, not only on Facebook but now on Instagram, Twitter and Foursquare too. People are more concerned with appearing to be having fun than actually going out having fun with their friends.

While it is bad enough that social media has strained our relationships with friends and family, it is even more troubling that the epidemic has crossed the line into the classroom and workplace. Developing personal relationships is paramount in all aspects of life, and a widespread inability to communicate in person is very much an issue.

While out with friends, in class or anywhere at all, a phone’s presence alone is enough to harm interpersonal relationships, researchers Netta Weinstein and Andrew K. Przybylski of the University of Essex claim.

Weinstein and Przybylski conducted an experiment to see if phones really do impact social behavior. They took pairs of people and put them in rooms alone for ten minutes. Certain pairs had a phone in the room, while others did not. What they found was that the pairs without the phone had far more riveting conversations and got to know each other much better than those with a phone.

“Interacting in a neutral environment without a cell phone nearby seems to help foster closeness, connectedness, interpersonal trust and perceptions of empathy — the building blocks of a relationship,” Scientific American said.

People have an irrational need to be accepted by everyone. The fact that it is more important for social media users to impress thousands of Facebook “friends” than their close personal friends is astonishing.

As a student, next time you find yourself ignoring your friends to play with your phone, put it down and enjoy their company. Instead of texting on your way to class, take a minute to gaze up at the Arizona scenery. No picture on Instagram can compare to that.

– Justin Hussong is a journalism senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @hussington


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