News Column

Effects of Making Your Phone the 'Third' Party

May 23, 2014

Ojoma Akor



The picture that comes into one's mind when a third party is mentioned is often that someone or people aside the couple such as in-laws, relatives, friends, or colleagues to mention a few.

However, with the advent of mobile phones especially smart phones with features like chat rooms, social networking sites, watching videos and playing games, the phone is gradually becoming the third party in interpersonal relationships.

Most relationships survive on the bond between couples. The bond can be strengthened through conversation, and spending quality time together .

Today more and more, people are using their phones while they spend time with others. At the end they spend more time with their phones than with themselves.

It is common these days for couples to meet and one or both of them spend most or all the time receiving calls, interrupting the person speaking or stopping half ways through discussions to respond to message or pings. This could take minutes while the other party watches feeling dejected or neglected.

A respondent who gave his name as Isa narrated how he took his fiancÉe to a fast food joint and she spent almost the whole time on the phone. "It is either she says excuse me let me answer this call or respond to this message or keeps looking at the phone and chatting," he said.

Isa said: "It became more like a habit each time we meet and I began to get irritated. Sometimes we don't even see each other for long because she is always on her phone chatting with people or browsing all manner of things. I had to warn her about the behavior because it was more like I am with somebody yet with nobody."

A woman who does not want her name in print also complained of coming home from work and expecting to chat with her husband only to be ignored most of the time.

"It is either he is pinging one person or the other on Blackberry, chatting on WhatsApp or facebook or watching videos on you tube. Sometimes when I want to tell him something he will say text or mail it to me! His attention is more on the phone than me."

Several research have shown that individuals on their mobile phones in public are much less likely to help or even notice others. Phones distract users and negatively impact their ability to pay attention to their surroundings.

Ruth Adebiyi a student said she visited her friend once and he spent the day being physically present but mentally absent.

"At a point I had to interrupt his concentration on the phone by asking who he was chatting with, he replied 'different people, this is my mum, she asked how my day has been and asked me to greet you,' next he will say his siblings or friends are saying this or that , I just felt shouldn't the phone be kept aside while I was with him and then he responds later? Doing all that while I was there makes the phone a distraction."

Several research have also shown there is a link between smart phones and interpersonal conflict.

According to Elizabeth Tertadian in her study, smart phones act as a conflicting third party in interpersonal relationships in the following ways; barrier to meaningful communication, jealousy of smart phone interactions, technology-induced communication problems, disrespect, face-to-face preferred for conflict, acceptance of smart phone interruptions, accommodation and avoidance, and unmet expectations.

She said, "It can be reasonably concluded that smart phones act as a conflicting third party in interpersonal relationships because individuals become distracted by their phone and others view the device as a barrier to communication when it is used when two people are engaged in a face-to-face interaction. The theory of caller hegemony can be used to explain the recipient's desire to interrupt a conversation with another one. In this case, it was often because they felt capable of multitasking and that it was socially acceptable.

"When an individual chooses to give attention to their phone, they are sending a relationship message to the person they are with that they are not as important. This prioritization of a smart phone over a face-to-face interaction leads to interpersonal conflict due to feelings of insignificance, especially when it is habitual or occurs during a meaningful conversation."

Another researcher Humphreys, in his study said phone call to a person engaged in a a face to face conversation may lead to social anxiety on the person left out of the phone interaction. He observed that people feel awkward , annoyed or even put off when their companion is always on the phone.

Supervising psychologist at the University of Connecticut Health Center Joseph Nowinski, said a recent study by psychologists at the University of North Carolina which surveyed young men and women who identified in romantic relationship showed that texting instead of communication has its effects.

According to him, firstly, the researchers wanted to get a picture of exactly how these partners communicated, so they asked about their texting habits with each other, as well as how often they communicated by phone, email, Internet chat, Skype, and actual face-to-face conversation.

"The first finding of significance was the variation in how much partners relied on texting versus other ways of communicating. While some partners virtually never communicated via text, others sent as many as 500 texts a day to their partner, which accounted for more than 90% of their communication," he said.

He explained that a second important finding was that as texting increased, other forms of communication decreased. When the researchers asked these couples how satisfied they were, overall, with their relationship, they discovered was that to the extent that more texting was the dominant form of communication in a romantic relationship, the less satisfied the couple was.


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Source: AllAfrica


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