Can you hear me now: the distraction of cell phones

Christine Cotterill, first-year nutrition and food science major, and Maddy Walsh, first-year communication design major, talk in person and on their phones. Photo credit: Alicia Brogden


According to a survey by USA Today, 87 percent of millennials say their phone never leaves their side. Another 80 percent say the first thing they do every morning is reach for their smartphones.

Text messaging, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat all take turns stealing attention with siren calls throughout the day. It’s almost a universal habit to be plugged into a cell phone while walking to and from class, studying in the library and even in class or at work, as well. Every day it gets easier and easier to fill any empty spaces throughout the day with a phone.

With society’s push toward finding validity through every like or added follower on social media, any chime or buzz from a phone could mean another reminder of relevance.

Some Chico State students, like Patrick Hanna, junior biological sciences major, feel that getting caught up in the pressure to stay relevant through a cell phone can actually lead other students to feel irrelevant in their own face-to-face interactions.

“I feel like it becomes a conversation about how conceited that one person can be, as though hanging out with someone else is the distraction from what really matters,” Hanna said.

According to the survey, the millennial generation is obsessed with cell phones, which makes sense from the information accessibility standpoint. Everything anyone could ever want to Google, tweet or screenshot is handed out on a four-inch silver platter.

However, the person-to-cell phone relationship may be affecting how millennials interact with each other in face-to-face conversations.

Tyler Harris, senior biological science major, commends quality time and attention from others in conversation.

“I really value eye contact and people not being distracted by their phones or other distractions— actually listening and actively participating,” she said.

Hanna values eye contact and having a person’s full attention as well.

“I understand getting easily distracted by other things, but as long as they react in some courteous way as I am talking to them, then I feel like they are listening,” he said.

It’s nicer to have a conversation with someone who’s giving their full attention than trying to compete with someone who tends to constantly be on their phone, he said.

It’s easy to get angry with others when their attention is so easily swayed by their phones. Yet often times, we may find ourselves distracted by the same vices, Hanna said.

It’s one thing for millennials to be identified as the tech-savvy generation but, according to some students, too much technology at the wrong time can leave the impression that someone’s rude and self-absorbed.

“While I think phones are a useful tool for school and communication, I feel like they have a time and place,” Harris said.

Eve Dixon can be reached at [email protected] or @1134_208 on Twitter.