1. Study suggests drivers find it harder to ignore a ringing phone than to ignore the risk

    September 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Queensland University of Technology press release:

    Drivers find it difficult to ignore a ringing phone but they do ignore the dangers, with a new QUT study revealing almost 50 per cent believe locating and answering a ringing phone is not as risky as talking and texting.

    The research undertaken by QUT’s Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety — Queensland (CARRS-Q) and published in the PLOS ONE journal has found locating a ringing phone, checking who is calling, and rejecting or answering the call, is the most frequent mobile phone task undertaken by drivers.

    Lead researcher Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios said drivers did not believe that locating and answering a ringing phone was as risky as talking, texting or browsing.

    “The study of 484 Queensland drivers found 45 per cent admit to locating and answering a ringing phone, compared to 28 per cent who reported speaking on a handheld device.

    “Also concerning is that more drivers reported looking at a screen for more than 2 seconds or locating and answering a ringing phone, than they did talking on a handheld phone, texting or browsing.”

    Mr Oviedo-Trespalacios said when considering the risk of these different mobile phone tasks, most drivers underestimated the distracting dangers of passive phone use.

    Finding and reaching for a ringing phone is perceived by drivers as having a mid-range crash risk, however research has showed that this task is one of the most risky activities a driver can engage in,” he said.

    “This is because drivers are likely to adapt their driving behaviour when talking, texting and browsing, by reducing their speed, increasing their distance from the vehicle in front and scanning their environment more frequently.

    “On the other hand, a ringing mobile phone can occur at any time without giving time for the driver to adapt their behaviour and therefore increases the likelihood of a crash. “This mismatch in perception of risk is a major concern revealed by the study.”

    Mr Oviedo-Trespalacios said using a mobile phone while driving had been shown to increase crash risk four-fold.

    “Novice drivers are particularly at risk as they are more likely to drive while using a mobile phone.”

    Mr Oviedo-Trespalacios said other findings in the study included:

    • Despite the research, 12 per cent drivers still don’t believe talking on a handheld phone is dangerous
    • Drivers actively avoid police detection, with about 70 per cent admitting to being on the lookout for police when using their phone
    • Drivers keep their phones low and cover them to evade police detection
    • On a typical day, drivers are more likely to look at their mobile phone for more than 2 seconds, than they are to text or browse

  2. Blue light emitted by screens damages our sleep

    September 5, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Haifa press release:

    The short-wavelength blue light, emitted by the screens we watch, damages the duration, and even more so, the quality of our sleep. This is the conclusion of a new study undertaken by the University of Haifa and Assuta Sleep Clinic. The study also found that watching screens that emit red light does not cause damage, and sleep after exposure to it was similar to normal sleep. “The light emitted by most screens — computers, smartphones, and tablets — is blue light that damages the body’s cycles and our sleep,” explains Prof. Abraham Haim from the University of Haifa, one of the authors of the study. “The solution must be the use of the existing filters that prevent the emission of this light.”

    Previous studies have already shown that watching screens before going to sleep damages our sleep. It has also been found that exposure to blue light with wave lengths of 450-500 nanometers suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone secreted at night that is connected with normal body cycles and sleep. The new study, published in the journal Chronobiology International, was undertaken by researchers Prof. Abraham Haim, head of the Israeli center for interdisciplinary research in chronobiology at the University of Haifa; doctorate student Amit Shai Green of the Center for Interdisciplinary Chronobiological Research at the University of Haifa and the Sleep and Fatigue Center at Assuta Medical Center; Dr. Merav Cohen-Zion of the School of Behavioral Sciences at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yafo; and Prof. Yaron Dagan of the Research Institute for Applied Chronobiology at Tel Hai Academic College. The researchers sought to examine whether there is any difference in sleep patterns following exposure to blue screen light as compared to red light prior to sleep, and furthermore, to find which is more disruptive: wavelength or intensity?

    The study participants were 19 healthy subjects aged 20-29 who were not aware of the purpose of the study. In the first part of the trial, the participants wore an actigraph for one week (an actigraph is a device that provides an objective measurement of the time when an individual falls asleep and wakes up). They also completed a sleep diary and a questionnaire about their sleeping habits and quality of sleep. In the second part of the trial, which took place at Assuta’s Sleep Laboratory, the participants were exposed to computer screens from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. — the hours when the pineal gland begins to produce and excrete melatonin. The participants were exposed to four types of light: high-intensity blue light, low-intensity blue light, high-intensity red light, and low-intensity red light. Following exposure to light, they were connected to instruments that measure brain waves and can determine the stages of sleep a person undergoes during the course of the night, including awakenings not noticed by the participants themselves. In the morning, the participants completed various questionnaires relating to their feelings.

    On average, exposure to blue light reduced the duration of sleep by approximately 16 minutes. In addition, exposure to blue light significantly reduced the production of melatonin, whereas exposure to red light showed a very similar level of melatonin production to the normal situation. The researchers explain that the impaired production of melatonin reflects substantial disruption of the natural mechanisms and the body’s biological clock. Thus, for example, it was found that exposure to blue light prevents the body from activating the natural mechanism that reduces body temperature. “Naturally, when the body moves into sleep it begins to reduce its temperature, reaching the lowest point at around 4:00 a.m. When the body returns to its normal temperature, we wake up,” Prof. Haim explains. “After exposure to red light, the body continued to behave naturally, but exposure to blue light led the body to maintain its normal temperature throughout the night — further evidence of damage to our natural biological clock.”

    The most significant finding in terms of the disruption of sleep was that exposure to blue light drastically disrupts the continuity of sleep. Whereas after exposure to red light (at both intensities) people woke up an average of 4.5 times (unnoticed awakenings), following exposure to weak blue light 6.7 awakenings were recorded, rising to as many as 7.6 awakenings following exposure to strong blue light. Accordingly, it is hardly surprising that the participants reported in the questionnaires that the felt more tired and in a worse mood after exposure to blue light.

    “Exposure to screens during the day in general, and at night in particular, is an integral part of our technologically advanced world and will only become more intense in the future. However, our study shows that it is not the screens themselves that damage our biological clock, and therefore our sleep, but the short-wave blue light that they emit. Fortunately various applications are available that filter the problematic blue light on the spectrum and replace it with weak red light, thereby reducing the damage to the suppression of melatonin,” concludes Prof. Haim.


  3. Study suggests playing smartphone health app aids concussion recovery in teens

    September 1, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center press release:

    Generally, after suffering a concussion, patients are encouraged to avoid reading, watching TV and using mobile devices to help their brains heal. But new research shows that teen-agers who used a mobile health app once a day in conjunction with medical care improved concussion symptoms and optimism more than with standard medical treatment alone.

    Researchers from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center collaborated on the study with Jane McGonigal of the Institute for the Future, who developed the mobile health app called SuperBetter after she suffered a concussion.

    Results of the study are published online in the journal Brain Injury.

    The 19 teens who participated in the study received standard of care for concussion symptoms that persisted beyond 3 weeks after the head injury, and the experimental group also used the SuperBetter app as a gamified symptoms journal.

    “We found that mobile apps incorporating social game mechanics and a heroic narrative can complement medical care to improve health among teenagers with unresolved concussion symptoms, said first author Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, a physical rehabilitation specialist who studies movement at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute.

    The American Academy of Neurology recommends limiting cognitive and physical effort and prohibiting sports involvement until a concussed individual is asymptomatic without using medication. However, this level of physical, cognitive and social inactivity represents a lifestyle change with its own risk factors, including social isolation, depression and increased incidence of suicidal ideology, the researchers noted.

    In addition, cognitive rest often involves limiting screen stimulation associated with popular modes of interpersonal interaction, such as text messaging and social networking on digital platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and multiplayer video gaming, thereby blocking common avenues for social connection.

    “Teens who’ve had a concussion are told not to use media or screens, and we wanted to test if it was possible for them to use screens just a little bit each day, and get the bang for the buck with that,” Worthen-Chaudhari said. “The app rewrites things you might be frustrated about as a personal, heroic narrative. So you might start out feeling ‘I’m frustrated. I can’t get rid of this headache,’ and then the app helps reframe that frustration to ‘I battled the headache bad guy today. And I feel good about that hard work’.”

    Concussion symptoms can include a variety of complaints, including headaches, confusion, depression, sleep disturbance, fatigue, irritability, agitation, anxiety, dizziness, difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly, sensitivity to light and noise, and impaired cognitive function.

    Within the SuperBetter app, symptoms were represented as bad guys such as headaches, dizziness or feeling confused, and medical recommendations were represented as power ups, including sleep, sunglasses or an academic concussion management plan. Participants invited allies to join their personal network in the app and they could view their in-app activity and could send resilience points, achievements, comments and personalized emails in response to activity.

    “Since 2005, the rate of reported concussions in high school athletes has doubled, and youth are especially at risk,” said study collaborator Dr. Kelsey Logan, director of the division of sports medicine at Cincinnati Children’s. “Pairing the social, mobile app SuperBetter with traditional medical care appears to improve outcomes and optimism for youth with unresolved concussion symptoms. More study is needed to investigate ways that leveraging interactive media may complement medical care and promote health outcomes among youth with concussion and the general population.”


  4. Consumers more likely to spend money on guilty pleasures with touchscreen technology

    August 29, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus press release:

    You are more likely to indulge in guilty pleasures when shopping online with a touchscreen versus a desktop computer, according to research from UBC’s Okanagan campus.

    Studies conducted by Faculty of Management assistant professor Ying Zhu are shedding new light into consumer behaviour when it comes to touchscreen technology, a rapidly increasing sales technology.

    “Touchscreen technology has rapidly penetrated the consumer market and embedded itself into our daily lives. Given its fast growth and popularity, we know surprisingly little about its effect on consumers,” explains Zhu. “With more than two billion smartphone users, the use of tactile technologies for online shopping alone is set to represent nearly half of all e-commerce by next year.”

    To extend our knowledge on the touchscreen, Zhu and her co-author, Jeffrey Meyer, conducted a series of experiments with university students to measure thinking styles and purchase intentions using devices like touchscreens and desktop computers.

    The study aimed to investigate whether online purchase intentions change when it comes to two different types of products: hedonic, or those that give the consumer pleasure like chocolate or massages; and utilitarian, products that are practical, like bread or printers.

    “The playful and fun nature of the touchscreen enhances consumers’ favour of hedonic products; while the logical and functional nature of a desktop endorses the consumers’ preference for utilitarian products,” explains Zhu.

    Zhu’s study also found that participants using touchscreen technology scored significantly higher on experiential thinking than those using desktop computers. However, those on desktops scored significantly higher on rational thinking.

    “Overall, what we learned is that using a touchscreen evokes consumers’ experiential thinking, which resonates with the playful nature of hedonic products. These results may well be a game-changer for sectors like the retail industry,” says Zhu. “But my advice for consumers who want to save a bit of money is to put away the smartphone when you have urge to spend on a guilty pleasure.”


  5. Study suggests Pokémon Go may actually promote healthier lifestyle

    July 26, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Kent State University press release:

    Today marks the one year anniversary of Pokémon GO’s worldwide release that sent crowds hiking through parks, meandering into streets and walking for miles in search of Pokémon, those cute little digital characters that appear in real locations on your smartphone.

    Capturing the little monsters isn’t just fun for the players, it might be good for their health. Too often we sit at a desk all day, spend countless hours in the car, and with a smartphone glued to our hands it is too easy to spend our free time watching videos, playing games and browsing the internet. Such sedentary behaviors cause us to sit more and exercise less.

    However, Kent State University researchers found that playing a popular physically-interactive, smartphone based game, like Pokémon GO, may actually promote exercise.

    Jacob Barkley, Ph.D., Andrew Lepp, Ph.D., and Ellen Glickman, Ph.D., from Kent State’s College of Education, Health and Human Services assessed the ability of the popular, physically-interactive, smartphone based video game Pokémon GO to increase walking and decrease sedentary behavior, like sitting. Over 350 college students reported their physical activity and sedentary behavior the week before they downloaded Pokémon GO, the week immediately after downloading the game, and again several weeks later.

    Results show that, relative to the week before downloading Pokémon GO, students doubled their daily walking behavior (102 percent increase) and reduced sedentary behavior by 25 percent during the first week after downloading. When comparing behavior several weeks after downloading Pokémon GO, to the week before downloading, walking and sedentary behavior was still 68 percent greater and 18 percent lower, respectively, even though frequency of game play decreased by 58 percent.

    “While the largest increases in walking and decreases in sitting occurred during the first week after downloading, when the game was new to the user, those positive effects largely persisted weeks later,” Barkley said. “It is possible that games like Pokémon GO may help people initiate a positive health behavior change, such as more daily walking and less sitting.”

    The researchers suggest that while many smartphone functions may promote sedentary activity, they are hopeful that playing physically-interactive, smartphone based video games like Pokémon GO may help promote walking and reduce sitting in college students.

    The study is published in the Games for Health Journal.


  6. Study identifies four categories of Facebook users

    July 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Brigham Young University press release:

    On an average day, 1.28 billion people check it. Monthly? Nearly 2 billion. And according to one recent estimate, the average Facebook user spends 35 minutes a day on the platform — which makes for a whole lot of daily and monthly minutes.

    In a recently published study, a trio of Brigham Young University communications professors explores why.

    “What is it about this social-media platform that has taken over the world?” asked lead author Tom Robinson. “Why are people so willing to put their lives on display? Nobody has ever really asked the question, ‘Why do you like this?'”

    Based on subject responses, the research team identified four categories of Facebook users: relationship builders, town criers, selfies and window shoppers.

    Relationship builders post, respond to others’ posts and use additional Facebook features primarily in an attempt to fortify relationships that exist beyond their virtual world. “They use it as an extension of their real life, with their family and real-life friends,” Robinson said. People in this group identified strongly with such statements as “Facebook helps me to express love to my family and lets my family express love to me.”

    Town criers, on the other hand, experience a much larger gap between their real and virtual worlds. Unconcerned with sharing photos, stories or other information about themselves, they instead “want to inform everybody about what’s going on,” Robinson said. Like town criers from days of yore, “they’re pushing out information.” They repost news stories, announce events — but may otherwise neglect their profile pages, preferring to update family and friends through alternative means.

    Selfies use Facebook to self promote. Like relationship builders, they post pictures, videos and text updates — but unlike relationship builders, they’re focused on getting attention, likes and comments. Study participants in this category identified highly with the statement “The more ‘like’ notification alarms I receive, the more I feel approved by my peers.” Selfies, said study co-author Kris Boyle, use the platform “to present an image of themselves, whether it’s accurate or not.”

    Window shoppers, like town criers, feel a sense of social obligation to be on Facebook but rarely post personal information. Unlike town criers, these users, said study co-author Clark Callahan, “want to see what other people are doing. It’s the social-media equivalent of people watching.” Window shoppers identified with such statements as “I can freely look at the Facebook profile of someone I have a crush on and know their interests and relationship status.”

    For this study, the researchers compiled a list of 48 statements identifying potential reasons people use Facebook. Subjects sorted the statements in a way that reflected their personal connection to the ideas, then rated each statement on a scale from “most like me” to “least like me.” Finally, the researchers interviewed each subject to get a deeper understanding of their rankings and ratings.

    Though previous Facebook-related research has explored users with relationship-builder and selfie characteristics, Robinson said, the town criers and window shoppers were an unexpected find. “Nobody had really talked about these users before, but when we thought about it, they both made a lot of sense.”

    Facebook users may identify to some degree with more than one category — Boyle noted that most people have at least some selfie tendencies, for example. But users typically identify more with one than others. “Everybody we’ve talked to will say, ‘I’m part of this and part of this, but I’m mostly this,'” said Robinson, who calls himself a relationship builder.

    So what’s the value in the label?

    “Social media is so ingrained in everything we do right now,” Boyle said. “And most people don’t think about why they do it, but if people can recognize their habits, that at least creates awareness.”


  7. Study suggests digital communication improves young patient engagement

    July 22, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Warwick press release:

    Using texts, emails, Skype and other digital communication methods can improve the health care experience of younger patients.

    That is the conclusion of new research, led by the University of Warwick and King’s College London, which examined case studies from 20 NHS specialist clinical teams from across England and Wales.

    A ‘first look’ scientific summary about the research has just been published on the NIHR Journals Library.

    Young people with long-term health conditions often disengage from health services, resulting in poor health outcomes. In an attempt to address this, NHS clinicians are using digital communication to reverse this. However, so far it’s been unclear whether this has been effective; there are gaps in evidence as to how it might work, its cost and ethical and safety issues.

    The research, which was conducted between 2013-2016 was led by Professor Frances Griffiths from the Warwick Medical School and Jackie Sturt, Professor of Behavioural Medicine in Nursing at King’s College London. Professor Griffiths said: “NHS policy prompts more widespread use of digital communication to improve health care experience.

    Digital communication enables timely access for young people to the right clinician at the time when it can make a difference to how they manage their health condition. This is valued as an addition to traditional clinic appointments, and can engage those otherwise disengaged. It can enhance patient autonomy, empowerment and activation.”

    Interviews were conducted with 165 young patients, aged 16-24 years, who live with a long-term health condition, along with 173 health professionals, including 16 information governance specialists. Overall, 79 clinical observations took place.

    The researchers wanted to establish if 16-24 year olds involved in their own health care improves as a result of using digital communication with their clinicians could improve, and to identify associated costs and necessary safeguards.

    The findings suggest that benefit is most likely, and risks will be mitigated, when digital communication is used with patients who already have a relationship of trust with the clinical team, and who need to have flexible access, such as when transitioning between services, treatments or lived context.

    The study noted the implications for clinicians. The main cost driver is staff time. However, the researchers believe that this is likely to be offset by savings elsewhere in the health service. Young people and clinicians can mitigate risks of this approach by using common sense approaches to avoid increased dependence on clinicians, inadvertent disclosure of confidential information and communication failures. The researchers also noted that clinical teams need to be proactive in their approaches to ethics, governance and patient safety.

    Professor Jackie Sturt commented, “Digital communication is already happening between health professionals and young people, and it’s clearly something young people want. We think the NHS should be proactive in creating guidelines and helping clinicians to engage young people via digital communication. There are obviously risks, but also the potential for real benefits.”


  8. Study suggests presence of smartphone reduces cognitive capacity

    July 8, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) press release:

    Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach — even if it’s off. That’s the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

    McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they’re not using them.

    In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. The tests were geared to measure participants’ available cognitive capacity — that is, the brain’s ability to hold and process data at any given time. Before beginning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent.

    The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.

    The findings suggest that the mere presence of one’s smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity and impairs cognitive functioning, even though people feel they’re giving their full attention and focus to the task at hand. “We see a linear trend that suggests that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, participants’ available cognitive capacity decreases,” Ward said. “Your conscious mind isn’t thinking about your smartphone, but that process — the process of requiring yourself to not think about something — uses up some of your limited cognitive resources. It’s a brain drain.”

    In another experiment, researchers looked at how a person’s self-reported smartphone dependence — or how strongly a person feels he or she needs to have a smartphone in order to get through a typical day — affected cognitive capacity. Participants performed the same series of computer-based tests as the first group and were randomly assigned to keep their smartphones either in sight on the desk face up, in a pocket or bag, or in another room. In this experiment, some participants were also instructed to turn off their phones.

    The researchers found that participants who were the most dependent on their smartphones performed worse compared with their less-dependent peers, but only when they kept their smartphones on the desk or in their pocket or bag.

    Ward and his colleagues also found that it didn’t matter whether a person’s smartphone was turned on or off, or whether it was lying face up or face down on a desk. Having a smartphone within sight or within easy reach reduces a person’s ability to focus and perform tasks because part of their brain is actively working to not pick up or use the phone.

    “It’s not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones,” said Ward. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity.”


  9. Most people ‘aren’t as happy as their friends’ on social media

    July 4, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Indiana University press release:

    A study led by computer scientists at Indiana University has found that people with the most connections on social media are also happier. This may cause most social media users to not only regard themselves as less popular than their friends but also less happy.

    The recently published study is essentially the first to provide scientific evidence for the feeling many people experience when they log into services like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: that everyone else looks like they’re having more fun.

    For the purposes of this study, which used publicly available data from Twitter, reciprocal followers were defined as “friends” and users with the most connections were defined as “popular.”

    “This analysis contributes to a growing body of evidence that social media may be harmful to users who ‘overindulge’ in these services since it’s nearly impossible to escape negative comparisons to their friends’ popularity and happiness,” said lead author Johan Bollen, associate professor in the IU School of Informatics and Computing, who advises people to carefully monitor and limit use of these services.

    “Given the magnitude of social media adoption across the globe, understanding the connection between social media use and happiness may well shed light on issues that affect the well-being of billions of people,” he added.

    The study builds upon a phenomenon known as the Friendship Paradox, which finds that most people on a social network have fewer connections on average than their friends, since the most popular users intersect with a higher-than-average number of social circles. The IU-led study is the first to reveal that these more popular users are also happier on average, inflating the overall happiness level of a user’s social circle — an effect the researchers dubbed the “Happiness Paradox.”

    “As far as we’re aware, it’s never been previously shown that social media users are not only less popular than their friends on average but also less happy,” Bollen said. “This study suggests that happiness is correlated with popularity, and also that the majority of people on social networks aren’t as happy as their friends due to this correlation between friendship and popularity.”

    To conduct the analysis, Bollen and colleagues randomly selected 4.8 million Twitter users, then analyzed the group for people who followed one another on the network, creating a social network of about 102,000 users with 2.3 million connections.

    The team then narrowed their focus to individuals with 15 or more “friends” on the network, after which they analyzed the sentiment of these users’ tweets, a common method in computer science and marketing to assess whether digital postings are generally positive or negative in tone. This created a group of 39,110 Twitter users. Users with higher positive sentiment were defined as “happy.”

    A statistical analysis of that final group found with high confidence that 94.3 percent of these users had fewer friends on average than their friends. Significantly, it also found that 58.5 percent of these users weren’t as happy as their friends on average.

    “In other words, a majority of users may feel that they’re less popular than their friends on average,” Bollen said. “They may also have the impression that they’re less happy than their friends on average.”

    The study also found that social media users tend to fall into two groups: happier users with happier friends and unhappier users with unhappier friends. Surprisingly, the unhappier users were still likely to be less happy than their unhappy friends, suggesting they’re more strongly affected by their friends’ unhappiness.

    “Overall, this study finds social media users may experience higher levels of social dissatisfaction and unhappiness due to negative comparison between their and their friends’ happiness and popularity,” Bollen said. “Happy social media users may think their friends are more popular and slightly happier than they are — and unhappy social media users will likely have unhappy friends who still seem happier and more popular than they are on average.”

    The paper, titled “The happiness paradox: your friends are happier than you,” appears in the European Physical Journal Data Science. Additional authors are Guangchen Ruan, doctoral researcher at IU; Bruno Gonçalves of New York University; and Ingrid van de Leemput of Wageningen University, The Netherlands.

    This study was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency.


  10. Study suggests “phone snubbing” leads to similar behaviour

    June 27, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Baylor University press release:

    People who are phone snubbed — or “phubbed” — by others are, themselves, often turning to their smartphones and social media to find acceptance, according to new research from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.

    Building on their earlier study that phubbing can damage relationships and lead to depression, researchers Meredith David, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing, and James A. Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing, have found that the circle nearly completes itself as the offended parties frequently jump online to find affirmation in the likes and shares and positive comments of social media.

    Their study, “Phubbed and Alone: Phone Snubbing, Social Exclusion, and Attachment to Social Media,” is published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research. The research investigates the relationship between phubbing, social media attachment, depression, anxiety and stress.

    “When an individual is phubbed, he/she feels socially excluded which leads to an increased need for attention. Instead of turning to face-to-face interaction to restore a sense of inclusion, study participants turned to social media to regain a sense of belonging,” said David, lead author of the study. “Being phubbed was also found to undermine an individual’s psychological well-being. Phubbed individuals reported higher levels of stress and depression.”

    “We’re looking online for what we’re not getting offline,” Roberts said. “It’s a vicious cycle.”

    As part of their research, David and Roberts surveyed more than 330 people across two studies. They found:

    • Nearly half of those who were phubbed reported spending more than 1.5 hours on their phone each day. In addition, one-quarter of those phubbed reported spending more than 90 minutes per day on social media sites.
    • More than one-third of phubbed individuals indicated that they turn to social media to interact with new people.
    • More than half of individuals who said they were phubbed indicated that social media enhances their life and makes their life better overall. The majority of these individuals reported that people’s comments on their social media posts makes them feel affirmed and more accepted.

    “Although the stated purpose of technology like smartphones is to help us connect with others, in this particular instance, it does not,” David said. “Ironically, the very technology that was designed to bring humans closer together, has isolated us from these very same people.”

    Roberts, who wrote the book “Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?” said this current research and the trends it identifies are troubling.

    “Our inability to separate from technology is devastating to our well-being,” he said. “Even if it’s not an addiction, it’s a deeply engrained habit.”

    To counter the negative effects of smartphone use, the researchers advise consumers to establish “smartphone-free” zones and times; establish social contracts (and penalties) regarding phone use with friends, family and coworkers; and downloading apps that track, monitor and control smartphone use.

    “All this research into phubbing would be for naught, or only an interesting story, if not for the revelation that this type of behavior can drive others’ use of social media in an attempt to regain inclusion,” the researchers wrote. “Additionally, such behavior can also impact the well-being of affected individuals.”