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Pro / Con

Pro: Smartphones Increase Social Skills in the Long-Term

Editor’s Note: This is the Pro argument in The Index’s Pro-Con debate on cellphone usage.  To read the Con, click here.

The benefit, or detriment, of cellphone use has been studied extensively for the past decade to determine their effects on personal relationships. While both sides have heavy amounts of research, I believe the benefits of cellphone usage far outweigh the detriments.

While many studies have pointed at cellphones creating diminished social skills, a recent study from Michigan State suggests the opposite.

This isn’t suggesting that the short-term benefits of using your phone constantly, such as at the dinner table or when out with friends, is actually a pro to constant phone use. Instead, this study points to the growth of personal relationships, brain exercise, and general social skills over the long-term is more impressive, and more important, than previously believed.

When teenagers start using their cellphones, many beneficial changes are happening in their brains. For example, a study from the University of Zurich in 2014 showed that people that used their cellphones often, especially touchscreens, had brain development similar to a violinist, with more brain activity used while using their fingers than those who did not use their phones often.

This would suggest that the more often you use a smartphone, the better workout you are giving your brain, which is always a good thing. Think about it like eating a crunchy carrot during dinner. You’re probably going to miss out on some of whatever the person is saying, but the carrot is still good for you.

To add to that, the loudest argument against cellphone use is that it is bad for the development of personal relationships. However, this cannot be entirely accurate, considering that you have more opportunities to talk with the people you want to, without being next to them 24/7.

Instead, always being able to socialize should increase the bonds you have with other people, as well as make them long lasting.

At college, without the use of my cellphone I would not still be friends with some of my friends from high school. In this regard, my iPhone is the reason I have relationships, which is contrary to what a lot of researchers argue.

Not only that, but talking on the phone or texting forces the speaker to articulate what they want to say into words, instead of relying on gestures or tones. This greatly increases a person’s understanding of language, and their proficiency at using it.

This would suggest that cellphones, rather than decreasing a person’s ability to socialize, actually increases their social skills.

This is further supported by a study done in November by Tong, S., and Joseph B. Walther, that shows that people are more likely to have a successful conversation about a difficult topic if they are not face-to-face. This is because anxiety reactions are decreased, and people have more time to cool off and respond calmly to situations, rather than reacting immediately and regretting it.

Based on these studies, there is no reason to toss the iPhone all together. Instead, maybe just put it down for a few minutes at dinner so your roommate at least thinks you’re listening to them.

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Pro: Smartphones Increase Social Skills in the Long-Term