So why would an innocuous thing like making a cell phone call make a person less giving? The researchers think it has to do with feelings of social connectedness. All humans have a fundamental need to connect with others — but once that need is met, say by using a cell phone, it naturally reduces our inclination to feel empathy or engage in helping behavior toward others. “The cell phone directly evokes feelings of connectivity to others, thereby fulfilling the basic human need to belong,” said study author and marketing professor Rosellina Ferraro in as statement.
Is Your Cell Phone Making You a Jerk? by Alexandra Sifferlin
Since I started MFA interaction design program, majority of the projects I’ve done were mobile apps that has social aspects. However, one thing that has always bothered me since the beginning is exactly what this article is discussing. When people are connected through phones and social networks all the time, the disconnection happens in the real world, like between me and the person next to me. Everywhere we go, we have to “check in” with foursquare. When something interesting happens, or you think of a brilliant idea, you tweet about it instantly. This instant connectivity has opened door for many possibilities, but my question is, how has it affected our relationship with people in a real world, not the world behind screen.
I thought the point of social networking is to stay connected so we can be better friends and family to each other, but this study seems to suggest a counter effect of social networking; we become dehumanized when we feel socially connected. It argues that being always satisfied with basic human desire to be included in a social circle, which encourages a sense of exclusivity-a feeling of “us vs. them”- inhibits us from seeking out other people and considering the full humanity of the people around us.
I find that this is a serious problem that we will face sometime soon. The way we should think about interaction design has to evolve in a way that our design assists people to be more humanized/empathetic to each other and human to human interaction deeper and enriched outside of social networks and screens. Living in this extremely socially connected generation, studying and equipping deeper understanding of human relationships that goes deeper than just human interactions and intuition is critical for interaction designers and internet startup companies because after all, our desire and purpose of practicing interaction design is to have a positive impact on our society.
Further reading on this topic from another article.
A similar psychology may affect our everyday interactions. “People talk about being overextended, having too many dinner dates, coffee dates, meetings. They feel depleted,” says Waytz. “We think this plays into our findings. Even though you are extremely socially connected, at some point, it comes at the expense of the ability to consider the full humanity of those around you.”
How Being Socially Connected May Sap Your Empathy. by Maia Szalavitz