A few years ago, Lisa Fields, a writer based in New Jersey, was excited to catch up with her cousins and spend time with their son for the holidays. But over dinner, she couldn't even make eye contact with the teen.
“His eyes were glued to his phone for the entire meal,” Fields says.
Sound familiar? While smartphones are useful for connecting far-flung family members, they easily distract from in-person reunions. When tethered to their devices texting friends or posting perfectly posed photos, people miss out on meaningful conversations and opportunities to enrich their IRL relationships. It's a trend that HP research has found is stoking a widespread desire for more authentic connections, especially during the holiday season.
“The thing we love most about technology is that it connects us to others, but it doesn’t replace real life,” says Diana Graber, author of Raising Humans in a Digital World.
Adam Alter, a New York University professor, psychologist, and author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked is currently combing through thousands of hours of video footage of family dinners and other gatherings to study how digital devices are changing the way people interact. So far, he says, data show people are spending less time engaged in both group and one-on-one conversations, and they’re more socially isolated despite being with other people. “Smartphones are creating disconnection and distance,” he says.