Two billion people on the planet use cell phones, according to James Katz, professor of communication at Rutgers University. In fact, there are more cell phone subscribers in the United States than there are people, according to an October 2011 study, underwritten by CTIA, the International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry. Cell phones have become so ubiquitous in our culture that Dr. Katz teaches a class on the social aspects of mobile communication. Smartphones, PDAs and other similar devices present the user with a variety of ways to communicate with the touch of a finger.
One-third (33%) of online adults say that the internet has improved their connections with friends “a lot,” and nearly one-quarter (23%) say that it has greatly improved their connections with members of their family. By contrast, far fewer say their internet use has improved their capacity to make new friends: only 12% of internet users feel that the internet has greatly improved their ability to meet new people, and nearly two thirds (64%) say that it has not improved their ability to meet new people at all.
Most respondents see the internet and cell phones as a positive (or, at worst, negligible) influence on the quality of communications with friends, family and co-workers.7 The internet and cell phones have the greatest positive impact on the quality of communications with family members living elsewhere, and the smallest positive impact on work-related communications. Notably, about half of the respondents in our survey feel that new communication technologies have not had an impact on their communications with household members, family members elsewhere, friends and coworkers. However, only a small percentage of adults feel that these technologies actually decrease the quality of their communications.
One-quarter of adults (25%) feel that the internet and cell phones have brought their family closer together than their own family was when they were growing up. Six in ten (60%) feel that these technologies haven’t made much difference in this regard, and only one-tenth (11%) feel that their family today is not as close as their childhood family because of new technologies. Families with the most technology – at least one cell phone and an internet connection – are relatively more likely to say their family is closer because of these technologies than are families with low levels of technology use.