We've become quite dependant on our multi-functioning cellphones in recent years, carrying them with us everywhere we go, and even placing them on the table when we join friends for quality face time, but it seems our love of these little technological miracles has a negative impact on the time we do spend seeing people face-to-face.
A set of studies conducted by scientists at the University of Essex asked pairs of strangers to talk for 10 minutes about an interesting event they had personally and individually experienced within the last four weeks.
The team set the pairs up in a private booth facing each other. Each person's personal belongings were left in a separate waiting area, but a book and a second item were left on a desk in close proximity to them. For some, the second item happened to be a cell phone, while for others, it was a pocket notebook.
Each person filled out a questionnaire focusing on the quality and connectedness they felt during the conversation.
The results showed that those who had conducted their talk with the cellphone sitting on the table nearby reported lower relationship quality and less closeness, suggesting that the "mere presence" of the cell phone had an impact.
The team then set up another test in order to examine in which context a cellphone would matter the most. In this instance, the strangers were required to talk about a casual or meaningful topic as before, but were then questioned about their feelings of trust and empathy toward the stranger they had just spoken to.
This time, questionnaire results of those who discussed a meaningful topic (this was the most important events of the past year) with a cellphone nearby showed that individuals felt there was a lower relationship quality and less trust and empathy. Interestingly, the presence of the cellphone had no effect on trust and empathy on those who conversed on the casual topic.
Researchers Andrew K Przybylski and Netta Weinstein believe that it's important to leave your cellphone out of the equation if you want to cultivate an empathetic, trusting and close relationship with someone.
An unrelated survey recently showed that half of those in the UK who own a smart phone check it first thing in the morning - even before greeting their significant other, having a cuppa coffee or jumping into the shower.
While our cell phones offer us the luxury of information at our fingertips, it's clear that their impact has the potential to effect our relationships negatively, so take heed the next time you're tempted to check your phone while out socialising.