Is your cell phone making you selfish?

I've said it before and I'll say it again--I am completely lost without my phone.  I view it as part of my wardrobe, a necessity that is as important as the shoes on my feet.  In fact, I start using it, literally, the minute I wake up (it's my alarm!) and from then on, it's my main tool for catching up on the day's headlines, scheduling appointments and reminders, fielding emails, and of course, the typical calls and texts. But according to new research, this is not such a good thing.

A recent study, published in the working paper, "The Effect of Mobile Phone Use on Prosocial Behavior," concluded that cell phones can actually encourage selfish behavior. They examined the behavior of male and female students, the majority of who were in their early 20s. The experiments tested the way cell phones shape "prosocial" behavior, which they define as action that helps another individual or the general public.

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What they found wasn't so pretty. People were less likely to volunteer for charity after they used a cell phone for just three minutes than those who didn't. And even more significantly, the report illustrated that while using a cell phone can satisfy the need to connect with others, it also decreases interest in the people who are around us.

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Yikes! I have to admit, I'm guilty as charged. There have been several mornings on the train when I've been so preoccupied with my phone that I've barely even glanced at the person who sits next to me. It's not that I'm trying to be rude but at 7:30 in the morning, I'm hardly feeling talkative and my phone doesn't help the situation. The problem is that I am potentially missing out on forming new relationships. What if I didn't meet my Prince Charming because I was on my cell?! Plus, I think my phone affects the relationships I already have. Though I normally make a conscious effort not to use my phone at certain times, like during a conversation or over a meal, there still have been a couple times when friends and family have rolled their eyes at me because of my incessant texting.

Which actually only makes this study all the more helpful for me--it's a reminder that I can always try harder. My phone is useful, but it's not nearly as important to me as making new friends, interacting with people around me, and spending time with my loved ones. So, I'm going to put down my phone for a little while, and if during this experiment, I find that the next person that sits down next to me on the train is my future husband and Ryan Gosling look-alike, well, that would be good too!

Do you think cell phones can make people selfish?

Image via teresawer/flickr