Smart phones keep us connected with the outside world at all times. The many social network apps, 24/7 internet connectivity, wifi, all the people we know are just a message away. But is that good?
Researchers from the Tel Aviv University investigated the smart phone is challenging traditional conceptions of privacy, especially in the public sphere. Their early results indicate that although spaces such as city squares, parks, or transportation were once seen as public meeting points, smart phone users are more and more caught up in their technology-based communications devices than their immediate surroundings.
Smart phone users are 70 percent more likely than regular cellphone users to believe that their phones afford them a great deal of privacy, says Dr. Eran Toch of TAU’s Department of Industrial Engineering, who specializes in privacy and information systems. These users are more willing to reveal private issues in public spaces. They are also less concerned about bothering individuals who share those spaces, he says. Dr. Tali Hatuka of TAU’s Department of Geography says that smart phones create the illusion of “private bubbles” around their users in public spaces.
To examine how smart phones have impacted human interactions in public and private spaces, the researchers designed an in-depth survey.
Nearly 150 participants, half smart phone users and half regular phone users, were questioned about how telephone use applied to their homes, public spaces, learning spaces, and transportation spaces. While regular phone users continued to adhere to established social protocol in terms of phone use — postponing private conversations for private spaces and considering the appropriateness of cell phone use in public spaces — smart phone users adapted different social behaviors for public spaces. They were 50 per cent less likely to be bothered by others using their phones in public spaces, and 20 percent less likely than regular phone users to believe that their private phone conversations were irritating to those around them, the researchers found.
According to the researchers, smart phone users were also more closely “attached” to their mobile devices. When asked how they felt when they were without their phones, the majority of smart phone owners chose negative descriptors such as “lost,” “tense,” or “not updated.” Regular phone users were far more likely to have positive associations to being without their phones, such as feeling free or quiet.