Impact of Interactive Devices on Face to Face Interaction
 
Student Researchers

Lee Peglow, Mike Latshaw, & Jon Kapp (Undergraduate Students)
This paper is based on a project from an undergraduate Media Effects course.

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

Introduction

The goal of this research is to find out the impact of interactive devices such as cell phones, instant messaging, and social networking site activity to see if they have a positive or negative effect on face to face interaction.  We were curious about which devices were being used the most with Penn State College students and which devices had what impacts.

Research Question & Hypotheses

Research Question:
For Penn State Students, controlling for gender, what is the relationship between text messaging, instant messaging, and social networking site activity and the amount of face to face interaction.

Hypotheses:
1) Students use interactive devices more than going out and meeting face to face.
2) Greater use of interactive devices decreases the likelihood of face to face interaction.
3) Females using social networking sites have a greater social dependency to these sites than males using social networking sites.
4) Students who use more interactive devices have more intimate relationships.

Method

All participants (N=201) were asked to take a survey regarding their interactive device used and their face-to-face interaction. Participants were asked 25 questions about their use of text messaging, instant messaging, and social networking site activity. Other key questions about extracurricular activities were asked as well to measure face to face (FTF) interaction. Questions were made up of a mix between nominal, ratio, and open ended questions.

Data was compiled based on the information provided by the participants at feedbackfarm.com then converted into an excel spread sheet where they were cleaned up and interpreted using the program JMP. The estimated time required to take this survey was approximately 5 minutes, and no incentive was provided for completing this survey.

Results

The results supported the hypothesis that greater use of interactive devices leads to a decrease in face to face interaction, F(1, 198) = 3.22, p < .05.

However, there was the exception of text messaging; those students who use text messaging more actually had an increase in the amount of face to face interaction they had, F(1,198) = 14.37, p < .05.

Our data also showed that females did have more of a dependency for social networking sites than males did.

Finally our fourth hypothesis was also supported; those who used more interactive devices have more intimate partners, t=1.66, p = .09 (approaching significance). 

Conclusion

In the end we found quite a bit of mixed results but were able to find out what we needed.  Our first hypothesis was a little rough to measure and the results were a little skewed, however, it was similar enough to our second hypothesis which our data did support.  The data also supported both hypotheses three and four.  Interactive devices today do have an impact on face to face interaction among college students.  Most have a negative effect on face to face interaction except for text messaging.  Females at Penn State do have more of a dependency on social networking socials than males do.  This might be because they worry more about their social status in life than most males do.  Also Penn State college students who used more interactive devices ended up having more serious relationships and more intimate partners most likely because they kept in touch with the people they met which led to closer relationships.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University