A recent study published in the journal Leisure Studies, 'iPod use and the perception of social introversion' by Benjamin R. Garner (University of Kansas), discusses the effects that iPod use has on society and social interaction.
Garner conducted a study with 105 college students at a small university in the south of North America. His study focused on how the participants view iPod users, with a hypothesis that they would perceive them as less likely to engage in social interaction. He also wanted to determine whether the views of the participants varied depending on their own personality types; would the more extroverted participants be more likely to view iPod users as less social than the introverted participants?
The study found that these expectations and perceptions did not vary between introverted or extroverted personality types, but his main hypothesis regarding perception of iPod users as less social was significantly proven.
"iPod users were perceived to be significantly less likely to engage in social behaviours such as making eye contact, saying hello and acknowledging a person walking past them. Furthermore, participants expressed significantly more hesitation in saying 'hello' to an iPod user."
The article also discusses different manners of iPod usage and the intentions behind them, highlighting that many uses are extremely positive in fostering social interaction:
"Using an iPod during exercise is a positive use of the technology. iPods can also be set up to be used through a speaker so multiple people can participate in listening or even enjoy a dance party. Pod-casts can allow users to connect to a larger listening community. However, acknowledging the potential isolating effects of iPod use is also important."
iPod users may or may not listen to their devices in public situations with the intention to prevent social engagement, but because others perceive it as a sign that the user does not want to interact, it has become a social barrier. Garner's study raises questions about what impact this behaviour, and the perception of it, may have on society. iPods, smart phones, tablets and other personal entertainment devices continue to grow in number; by plugging ourselves in to these modes of technology every day, are we intentionally closing ourselves off to social interaction, and if so, why?
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Leisure Studies Volume 33, Issue 1, 2014 DOI: 10.1080/02614367.2012.699976