Experts: Don't let smartphones interrupt holiday gatherings

2012-12-23T00:30:00Z 2012-12-24T09:15:04Z Experts: Don't let smartphones interrupt holiday gatheringsChas Reilly chas.reilly@nwi.com, (219) 662-5324 nwitimes.com
December 23, 2012 12:30 am  • 

Motorists are advised not to text while driving, and a variation of that rule might apply when attending holiday gatherings with family and friends.

Glenn Sparks, a Purdue University communication professor, suggests people should put their smartphones and tablets away during holiday events so they don't miss opportunities for face-to-face interaction.

Sparks said there is no substitute for that type of interaction, and pulling out a smartphone while having a face-to-face conversation can be perceived as "almost insulting."

David Nalbone, an associate professor of psychology at Purdue University Calumet, said "in general, nothing is better" than direct interaction with another person.

Nalbone said using a device at a social setting can be viewed as absent presence, which is when someone is near others but preoccupied with something else.

Sparks compared using smartphones to using slot machines.

People pick up smartphones after hearing an alert signifying they have a message. They may delete a message if it isn't crucial, but some continue using their smartphones hoping to find information they believe is valuable.

That situation could be similar to people going to slot machines and continually playing with the hopes of a "big payout."

Sparks said he understands the technology smartphones and other devices provide to people is useful for multiple situations, including staying in touch with others when they aren't physically around.

However, he said it's important to avoid "looking at the screens we brought with us" when given time to directly interact with people.

People could avoid using a smartphone too much by recognizing how much they use their devices and setting their own rules, Sparks said.

Other etiquette recommendations include not placing a smartphone on the table during a holiday meal and finding somewhere away from the party if you must check email or send a text message.

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