I remember very clearly the first time that I thought maybe smartphones and Facebook aren’t good things for us. I was having dinner with an acquaintance of mine, and I thought he was a very interesting person and would be good to get to know. He had a lot of good things to say, and I really wanted to get to know him better, but every time that we started talking about personal parts of our lives, he would get a text message and would stop paying attention so that he could answer it. It was about this time that I thought maybe smartphones and social medias don’t actually bring us closer together. Maybe they push us farther apart instead. Maybe they pull us in so many different directions and towards so many different people that it isn’t possible for us to get very close to anyone.
That doubt that I had is what I want to answer with this research study. I don’t think it’s just me who feels this way: lots of people say that they sometimes ignore their friends to be on the phone (Beck). When they do that, it hurts their relationships. So the question that I want to answer is two-part: first, do connecting technologies like facebook and smartphones actually make friendships closer? I mean, does being able to keep in touch with a person make it easier to be really close to them? And the second part is, how aware are people of their own usage of facebook and smartphones?

The way I want to research this is, I want to distribute interviews to people in order to see how they rate their smartphone and social media use: I want to see if they think it does make it harder or easier for them to have meaningful relationships with people. I’ll ask them questions like, “does it bother you when other people are on their phones while you’re socializing?” and “do you think you’re on your phone too much when you’re with other people?” I also want to ask them how much they think they’re on their phones: do they think they text 100 times a day and spend 30 minutes browsing Facebook, or maybe 10 texts a day but two hours on Facebook?

Once they respond, I also want to ask them one other thing: if they would be willing to track their browsing of Facebook and their texting for one month. They could get a report of how many times they texted from their carrier, and they could install a browser add-on that would report on how much time they spent on Facebook. This would give me a lot of data that I can work with: I would be able to see if being bothered by using smartphones had anything to do with using them more or less. I would also be able to see if using their smartphone more was associated with being wrong about how much they used their phone or with thinking phones and Facebook were beneficial.

I think that the answer is really likely to be that people think that smartphones are good for them, but they don’t realize how much time they actually spend on their phones. I also think that people are probably more upset by other people using smartphones than by their own phone use, meaning that people aren’t aware of the harms that their own behaviors can have. I think that phone usage is really beneficial in a lot of ways, but that the effects in this particular respect are probably bad. This is a lot like another study I read about in which smartphone use was tracked, but I don’t have the tools or the permission to do that sort of invasive research into how much they actually use their phones and what the specific effects are (Thomée, Härenstam, and Hagberg 1-2). I think, also, that some people are likely to say that they keep more people as acquaintances rather than friends because of their facebook usage (Bryant and Marmo 2).

The design that I want to use for reporting my results is distributing brochures/pamphlets or else creating an advertisement poster that can be put up around campus. I want to do it this way because honestly, nobody is ever going to watch a video for this class except this class, and nobody will read a paper that I write except for the professor. But if there really is something wrong with the way we use phones and social media, then the people on campus deserve to know, and I want to make something that I can use to educate them about this topic.

I think that the research design I have said I want to use will work very well for this sort of media. I can collect not just numerical information but also anecdotes from the people who take my survey, and I can put some of these stories in my posters or pamphlets to grab the attention of the people reading them. I can create some charts or graphs out of the numerical data that I collect and show that phone use is not healthy for friendships. Or, if the data I collect turns out the other way, I can use the same data to show people that it’s okay to use social media and smartphones as an important part of their friendships, and maybe use this project to help people have more fulfilling friendships with the people around them.

    References
  • Beck, Julie. “Ignoring People for Phones Is the New Normal.” The Atlantic. N.p., 12 Oct. 2016. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.
  • Bryant, Erin M., and Jennifer Marmo. “The Rules of Facebook Friendship: A Two-Stage Examination of Interaction Rules in Close, Casual, and Acquaintance Friendships.” Journal of social and personal relationships (2012): n. pag. Web.
  • Thomée, Sara, Annika Härenstam, and Mats Hagberg. “Mobile Phone Use and Stress, Sleep Disturbances, and Symptoms of Depression among Young Adults – a Prospective Cohort Study.” BMC public health 11.1 (2011): 66. Print.