The unprecedented development of modern technologies has utterly transformed people’s lives, introducing numerous previously unforeseeable opportunities and creating some unique challenges. These changes have made daily routine easier, relieving people of their tiring household duties and allowing them to have more spare time. Still, the most influential invention was the creation of a cell phone, which resulted in a substantial modification of traditional communication practices. The process of sending a letter and waiting for a reply for days, or the need to travel personally to discuss an issue became substituted with a phone call.
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Moreover, further technological improvements have significantly enhanced the functionality of these devices, actually turning them into portable computers with various capabilities. At first glance, this may seem a positive trend, facilitating various activities. However, it is a more complicated development, which can have unfavorable effects on the personal life and its satisfaction level. Although many people view smartphones as a harmless way to enhance communication, they often lead to loneliness due to the reduced in-person interactions, negative impact on friendship and romantic relations, and even digital addiction.
First, the most consequential effect of the increased use of smartphones is a shortage of direct interpersonal interactions, which are critical for building strong emotional ties. It is apparent that many activities, traditionally conducted through meetings, have been substituted by various communication tools. Moreover, even gatherings with friends or relatives are often replaced with phone calls or text messages. Although it may broaden the network of social contacts, it reduces the level of their intimacy, which often results in a feeling of emotional isolation (Lee and Ko 1343).
Besides, the excessive number of contacts, which is a common situation in today’s social network, may imply a lack of close personal ties and lead to loneliness (Lee and Ko 1351). Finally, the research conducted in The United Kingdom showed a significant increase in the levels of depressions and dissatisfaction with existing interpersonal interactions during the on-going pandemic (Li and Wang 4). These data proved the inability of digital communication to replace direct meetings and friendly gatherings. Therefore, smartphones may cause emotional loneliness when they are used instead of personal interactions.
Second, the extensive usage of smartphones has an unfavorable impact on the ability of people to develop strong friendly and romantic relations. At first glance, the correlation should be different, as these devices provide increased communication opportunities. However, researchers have identified that these benefits come “at the expense of romantic couples spending quality time together, resulting in lower relationship satisfaction” (Lapierre and Custer 4).
Moreover, the use of a mobile phone in one’s partner’s presence often becomes a distraction and may lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. The same applies to gatherings of colleagues, friends, or relatives. It has become standard practice for many people to check their phones during such events, which can be offensive for others. Finally, the development of remote communication channels can create a feeling of excessive control in families when partners require each other to be available anytime. Combined, this indicates the negative influence of smartphones on the quality of personal relations, resulting in increased loneliness.
In addition to the aforementioned, a widespread problem of digital addiction is a critical issue, ruining the lives and families of many people. According to a survey conducted in 2014, almost half of all smartphone owners mentioned them as something “they could not live without” (Darcin et al. 520). People become dependent on checking their devices for notifications or new posts on social networks. Such addiction plays a significant role in “inhibiting social capital” and degrading overall connections with others (Lapierre and Custer 7). Besides, the new media have changed the way people observe the surrounding world and react to it.
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It has become standard to put filters on gadgets, replacing true emotions with the desired image. All this makes people incapable of conveying their actual feelings and sincerely communicating even with their close friends and relatives.
Despite all these negative effects, many people simply view smartphones as a useful communication tool capable of enhancing their social interactions. In some cases, such argument may be feasible, as these technologies allow people to remain in contact regardless of the distances and circumstances separating them. They also contribute to increasing the number of acquaintances and amount of interaction with them.
However, this does not account for the character of such communication and the level of its intimacy. As noted by Lee and Ko, only strong close ties “can provide more stable and broader social support” (1343). Weak connections, which are typical of social network interactions, may only constitute a temporary alternative, and allocating excessive resources to them can be harmful. Therefore, despite the capabilities they bring, smartphones should be used with proper care and consideration of their negative effects.
In conclusion, the rapid enhancement of various technologies has transformed the way people communicate with each other, leading to certain undesired consequences. The widespread use of mobile phones has turned them into powerful devices, significantly replacing personal interactions. Moreover, the resulting conflicts and misunderstandings can ruin families and romantic relations. Finally, the dependence on these devices has reached such a level that its damaging effects are often compared to the ones caused by alcohol or drug abuse. Therefore, smartphones constitute a powerful contributing factor to the increased level of loneliness due to their unfavorable influence on social, personal, and romantic relations.
Darcin, Asli Enez, et al. “Smartphone Addiction and Its Relationship with Social Anxiety and Loneliness.” Behaviour & Information Technology, vol. 35, no. 7, 2016, pp. 520-525.
Lapierre, Matthew A, and Benjamin E. Custer. “Testing Relationships between Smartphone Engagement, Romantic Partner Communication, and Relationship Satisfaction.” Mobile Media & Communication, 2020.
Lee, Yeeun, and Young-gun Ko. “Feeling Lonely When Not Socially Isolated: Social Isolation Moderates the Association between Loneliness and Daily Social Interaction.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, vol. 35, no. 10, 2017, pp. 1340-1355.
Li, Lambert Zixin, and Wang Senhu. “Prevalence and Predictors of General Psychiatric Disorders and Loneliness during COVID-19 in the United Kingdom.” Psychiatry Research, vol. 291, 2020.