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The Changing Face of Problematic Internet Use

An Interpersonal Approach

Scott E. Caplan

Since the advent of the Internet and increasingly mobile devices, we have witnessed dramatic changes in computer-mediated technologies and their roles in our lives. In the late 1990s, researchers began to identify problematic forms of Internet use, such as difficulty controlling the amount of time spent online. Today, people live in a perpetually digital and permanently connected world that presents many serious types of problematic Internet use besides deficient self-regulation. Thousands of studies have been published on interpersonal problems such as cyberbullying, cyberstalking, relationship conflicts about online behavior, and the increasingly problematic use of mobile devices during in-person interactions. The Changing Face of Problematic Internet Use: An Interpersonal Approach also examines future trends, including the recent development of being constantly connected to mobile devices and social networks. Research in these areas is fraught with controversy, inconsistencies, and findings that are difficult to compare and summarize. This book offers students and researchers an organized, theory-based, synthesis of research on these problems and explains how interpersonal theory and research help us better understand the problems that online behavior plays in our personal lives and social interactions.

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6. Copresent Device Use: Using Mobile Devices During In-Person Interaction


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Chapter Six

Copresent Device Use

Using Mobile Devices During In-Person Interaction

People’s use of smartphones in face-to-to-face interactions has quickly emerged as a new interpersonal problem. One student Turkle (2015) interviewed explained, “Our texts are fine, it’s what texting is doing to in-person conversation that’s a problem” (Turkle, 2015, p. 21). Popular media and press reports describe concerns about the way mobile devices interfere with face-to-face interactions and close relationships (Brody, 2017). For example, recent headlines have included, “Just look me in the eyes already” (Shellenbarger, 2016) and “Ignoring people for phones is the new normal” (Beck, 2016). Recent books addressing the issue include The Big Disconnect (Steiner-Adair, 2013), Alone Together (Turkle, 2011) and Reclaiming Conversation (Turkle, 2015). Researchers have proposed a variety of terms to describe this phenomenon, including “copresent phone use” (Halpern & Katz, 2017), “technoference” (McDaniel & Coyne, 2016a), “mobile relational interference” (Baym, Hall, & Miltner, 2014), “multicommunicating” (Seo, Kim, & David, 2015), “parallel communication” (Kneidinger-Müller, 2017), and “phubbing” (phone snubbing; Chotpitayasunondh & Douglas, 2016), all of which refer to using mobile devices during a face-to-face interaction. ← 183 | 184 →

For consistency and clarity, this chapter uses the term copresent device use to describe checking or using a mobile device during an in-person interaction. The chapter reviews research indicating copresent device use is common in everyday interaction, that it can interfere with in-person conversation, and may have adverse effects on close relationships among romantic partners and...

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