NEW YORK – Sept. 1, 2015 – When is it OK and not OK to use a cellphone in public? A new Pew Research Center survey of more than 3,000 adults sought to identify the good and bad behaviors that people feel is proper mobile etiquette.
In the U.S., 92 percent of adults own a cellphone, and the majority says they never or very rarely turn it off. According to the study’s authors, the cellphone etiquette issue is becoming one that defines modern life.
“This ‘always-on’ reality has disrupted long-standing social norms about when it is appropriate for people to shift their attention away from their physical conversations and interactions with others, towards digital encounters with people and information that are enabled by their mobile phone,” according to the survey.
About 77 percent of adults surveyed say they think it’s generally OK for people to use cellphones while walking down the street, and 75 percent say it’s OK for others to use phones on public transit.
However, only 38 percent say it’s generally OK for others to use cellphones at restaurants – and just 5 percent believe it’s OK to use a cellphone at a meeting, according to the survey.
Eighty-two percent of adults agree that if people use cellphones during group encounters, it frequently or occasionally hurts the conversation. Women are more likely than men to say they feel cellphone use during social gatherings can hamper a group conversation – 41 percent versus 32 percent of men. Also, adults over age 50 are more likely than younger cellphone users to say cellphone use in group conversations can hurt social interactions.
Nevertheless, 89 percent of cellphone owners say they have used their phone during the most recent social gathering they attended. Some say they used their phone to send or read a message, take photos or videos, or take an incoming call.
Why do so many people still use cellphones at social gatherings when they believe it can hamper relationships? For some people, it may be about avoidance and distraction.
About 23 percent of cellphone owners admit using their phone in a public space to avoid interacting with others nearby. Sixteen percent said they used their phone because they were no longer interested in what the group was doing; 15 percent wanted to connect with other people who were strangers to the rest of the group; and 10 percent used their phone so they could avoid participating in the group’s current topic of conversation.
But the survey found that most people use their cellphone in public spaces for information gathering or social reasons rather than anti-social purposes.
Forty-five percent used their phone to post a picture or video they took at the gathering, and 41 percent used their phone to share something that had occurred in the group by text, e-mail or social networking site.
“Many cellphone owners are using their mobile devices while out in public for a variety of reasons, and while their visible actions might seem rude or inconsiderate to an outside observer, in many instances they are using their phone to further their social engagement with others,” according to the Pew Research Center study.
Source: “Americans’ Views on Mobile Etiquette,” Pew Research Center (Aug. 26, 2015)
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