Communication has evolved drastically, especially in the last few decades. Initially, interpersonal communication often involved face-to-face conversations and interactions. However, this trend changed as technology evolved. The introduction of mobile phones has particularly played a huge role in the transformation of communication. Presently, people choose mobile phones as their preferred mode of communication as opposed to meeting and talking with others face to face. What is the extent of mobile phone usage, and why is it that people prefer these devices as opposed to one-on-one interaction? This research paper seeks to answer these questions through the collection of data using surveys as the method of choice. It also looks at this research method’s efficiency in the provision of those answers and as a data collection method in general, which entails looking at what the method incorporates, its advantages and disadvantages, what makes the method suitable for this type of research, what challenges it involves, and possible ways of resolving such challenges.
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Indisputably, the mobile phone is one of the most useful technological devices of our century. It has revolutionised the way people communicate as well as how they conduct business (Hans & Ludovic 2008). Although the device also has its disadvantages and challenges, its uses are diverse and thus outweigh its disadvantages (Lynn 2010). The author of the book, The Cellphone: the history and technology of the device that changed the world, Guy Klemens, an American engineer, holds that mobile telephony merits outweigh its demerits. Klemens is of the view that the mobile phone is an absolute necessity and that even though it has some undesirable qualities like being an annoyance sometimes, it is something that most people ought to have. He illustrates this assertion by using an example at the beginning of the book of a woman selling fish at the Congo River. The woman is uneducated and can thus not read or write, but she communicates with her customers using her phone, which she uses to take orders and make deliveries accordingly. The technological developments made on the mobile phone over the past few years have occurred at blurring speed and have facilitated the fitting of the device with features akin to a computer. The mobile devices now include features such as a camera and in some cases a video recorder for recording short films, a voice recorder for making important memos, the Internet, and email applications. The devices also offer room for the installation of extra applications with smartphones getting features that provide high resolution and clarity of images, sound and fast Internet. Some phones go as far as having television installed on them (Saylor 2012). This aspect thus changed the way people interact.
Usually, people interact to share information and for entertainment and sentimental purposes in the case of family. However, critics have made propositions that with these improvements in the mobile phones, the majority of people choose to communicate through the devices as they provide a way of communicating while going on with other daily activities (Cooper 2009). The addition of video cameras has also made it possible to have video chats and thus, people no longer find it necessary to meet as often as was the case thirty years ago. Radio, video, and music applications take care of entertainment, thus reducing boredom and the need to interact with others. Also, the Internet has proved to be a great source of information, and thus people are always using their phones for one reason or the other, hence creating a sense of self-sufficiency to some extent for a person with the device. This trend is developing from as early as the teenage years and advancing into adulthood. However, it does not make practical sense to replace a human being’s presence with a device, which is why this paper aims to explore the extent to which these devices are used and how the usage affects communication and general interaction. It also focuses on why some people prefer mobile phones to one-on-one interaction with other people with the aim is to obtain an objective answer to each of these questions through a survey.
This research paper aims at establishing why people prefer the use of mobile devices to personal human interaction. It also looks at the extent of the usage of the devices to understand the reasons why the devices curtail face-to-face human interaction.
The rationale of the method used
The methodology of choice for this research is a survey. A survey underscores a research methodology that entails the studying of individual units from the population to collect data on a specific topic or subject of study (Leeuw, Hox & Dillman 2008). The main methods of data collection include questionnaires and interviews. A questionnaire is a sheet of paper with questions regarding the topic of research. The questions are formulated so that they are as simple as possible to obtain the best possible answers form the respondents also called the sample group (Gillham 2008). The researcher then hands the sheets out to the respondents and gives them time to answer the questions on their own in the best way they can. Interviews involve asking questions to the respondents directly and getting immediate answers. This method is suitable for this research for various reasons. One of the reasons is that the researcher is in a position to get an immediate response, especially in the case of interviews (Groves et al. 2009). This aspect allows adequate time for the analysis of data, recording of results, and the formation of an objective conclusion. The second reason that makes it suitable for this research is that since it is a pilot survey for a larger sample of respondents, it gives the researcher an idea of what to expect in the field while researching a larger group. It also enables him or her to decide whether it is appropriate for a larger group (Lavrakas 2008). If it proves not to be the best for such research, the researcher can look at other options are open to yield the best results.
Another advantage that makes this method appropriate for this research is that it enables the researcher to interact with the respondents. This element is important for it provides the respondents with the opportunity to ask for clarification in cases where there are ambiguous questions or questions that the respondents do not understand (Madans et al. 2011). It also gives the person conducting the survey a chance to assess the attitude of people about specific issues. One is in a position to observe the facial expressions and the tone of voice. Another important aspect that gives the survey an advantage over other methods is that other researchers have conducted similar surveys, and the person conducting this research is capable of comparing data and establishing a trend. For instance, the data collected can be compared to similar data from previous years form other researchers, which enables the establishment of a link between earlier trends and the current data. This information is necessary and useful in the prediction of future trends (Brace, 2008). It also establishes a sense of continuity in the study of that specific subject for better understanding.
One of the challenges expected is the establishment of an appropriate group, which is important for the collection of credible data. Another challenge that might affect the process of data collection is interaction with the sample group. Issues such as the language barrier might occur. Also, some respondents selected as part of the sample group might be unwilling to volunteer information for various reasons (Stoop et al. 2010). Another disadvantage that this method is that it gives a margin of error. The effect that this requirement might have on this research is that it may lower the accuracy of the findings, as the number chosen for the sample for this research is low (Lumney 2010).
As mentioned earlier, the methodology chosen for this research is a survey involving the supply of questionnaires. The decision to apply the use of questionnaires for data collection is based on the need to let the information come from the respondents without the interference of the surveyor. It also maximises on reflexivity, thus ensuring that the researcher’s bias does not affect the information given and subsequently the resultant conclusion (Bulmer 2004). Considering the sample number of the respondents, the survey is an appropriate method for this pilot research. This paper seeks to answer questions that form the basis of the decision to use a questionnaire as the data collection method of choice. These questions, as mentioned in the abstract, arise out of the current trend of mobile use. The device is one of the most common technological devices in most homes (Poulter 2011), even more, common than the television according to a survey conducted by the digital utility team at Digital For Real Life Research Centre on 26 March 2012. For the purposes of achieving the best results, a questionnaire needs to be as simple as possible. The questions need to be framed in a format that leads to answers of either “yes” or “no” whenever possible (Wansink & Bradburn 2004). Therefore, the questionnaire for this research has six simple, but precise questions that should attract a better response from the respondents than a trail of questions meant to establish a few facts. The less the time the respondent will spend in answering the questions, the more willing he or she seems to answer them. Therefore, it is prudent to provide multiple answers for questions whose resultant answers may not be a “yes” or” no”.
The importance of this aspect is that it prevents the possibility of the respondent answering in a manner that does not give a clear indication of his or her opinion (Statistics Canada 2012). It also takes a shorter period in the answering process. For this research, the location of choice is a college for the research targets adults from the age of eighteen years and above. Institutions of higher learning provide a good location for this age bracket, as it contains a mixture of people of diverse ages from eighteen years and above. One observable challenge with this environment is the access of the intended respondents as schools are high-security areas. Getting the attention of enough respondents also requires some extent of care and diligence. One has to keep in mind that learning institutions operate on schedules and that the breaks provided in between these schedules are for purposes of relaxation. Therefore, in conducting the survey, one has to use as little time as possible, or the respondent will refuse to cooperate due to wasting their relaxation time (Wonneberger 2013). For this reason, the visit for the survey was pre-arranged a few hours before the beginning of classes and was conducted immediately after classes during the break session. The surveyor chose fifteen respondents at random who formed the sample group and they handed them the questionnaires at the same time. The process took no more than ten minutes. It is also important to note that a person conducting a survey, especially when using questionnaires as the data collection method of choice needs to consider his or her interpersonal skills. A friendly person is more likely to get better responses than a person whose demeanour looks hostile. Look at appendix I for a sample of the questionnaire used.
Analysis and results
All the respondents in the survey were eighteen years and above. All the respondents that participated in the survey indicated that they owned mobile phones. Seventy per cent of the respondents were between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six years, while the remaining 30 per cent were above twenty-six years. Forty-six per cent of all the respondents indicated that they used their mobile phones for browsing the Internet in search of information, while 33 per cent used it for sending and receiving text messages. The remaining 11 per cent used their mobile phones to make calls and for entertainment. Sixty per cent of all the people who took part in the survey indicated that they used their devices very often, 26 per cent indicated that they used their phones, but not often, while only 13 per cent barely used their devices. In response to the question of how often the respondents met with their families and close friends, 53 per cent of them indicated that they met every day, 33 per cent met with them twice a week, and 14 per cent met their families and friends twice a month. Lastly, in answering whether they used their mobile phones while with family and close friends, 60 per cent of the total respondents said yes, while 40 per cent answered with a no.
Looking at the data, it is evident that the device is very popular and that most people regard it as essential. The fact that all the respondents in the survey indicated that they owned mobile phones is a clear indicator. Another aspect noted from the survey is that a large percentage of people who own mobile phones are young adults (Kling 2010) as evidenced by the fact that most of the interviewees were between the age of eighteen and twenty-six years. This aspect is perhaps the reason why the research is indicative of the device’s use mainly for informative pursuits as opposed to entertainment.
The majority of the sample group indicated that they used their phones to browse the Internet for information. Another reason for these findings might be that the age bracket is the same one that most people consider as the main labour market. This observation thus gives the inference that a majority of those that own mobile phones are people who have jobs and can thus afford to buy them. Based on the data, the location from which the data was collected from could have contributed to the results of the third question regarding the preferred use of the device for the survey was carried out in a learning institution where the pursuit of information is the main goal for being at the institution. Sixty per cent of the sample indicated that they used the device often, thus answering part of the questions that led to the survey, viz. the extent of the usage of mobile devices. It is not a surprise that most people use their mobile phones while with their loved ones. The device serves several important functions including keeping people connected regardless of where they are, which means that while someone is spending time with close family and friends, other people are in a position to gain access to them thus creating the possibility to link with one person electronically while interacting with another physically. Evidence of this assertion from the survey is 60 per cent of people who indicated that they use the devices while with other people. The result of this trend is that while it increases the quantity of time spent interacting; it reduces the quality of such time spent with each individual.
Mobile phones have been around for a few decades, but it is not until a few years ago that the advancements in the device took off at blurring speed. These advancements have caused a change to the way the devices are used from being just tools of communication to incorporating entertainment and business applications. The result of this move is a change in the behavioural attributed to the users of these devices. Although they are indeed convenient and essential in consideration of contemporary demanding lifestyles, the increased usage of the devices has resulted in a decrease in one-on-one interactions amongst people. The device has increased the number of individuals that one can connect with within a short time but has led to the reduction of the amount spent with each person, as the survey has proven. An analysis of the survey shows that this trend is most common among young adults between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six years. This age bracket comprises the largest number of people in the labour market. It is also the age bracket where a majority of the people is concerned about getting a higher education and advancing their knowledge and skills thus giving an indication why these devices seem essential to them and the extent of the usage that they apply them.
The methodology applied in this study was a survey with the main method of data collection being the use of questionnaires. This method has proved appropriate for this pilot project for various reasons. First, the time spent collecting data was minimal, and thus it provided time for analysis of the data collected. Secondly, the simplicity of the questionnaire resulted in the provision of essential data by the respondents without the possibility of ambiguity. The pre-arrangement of the survey session also ensured maximum cooperation from the respondents, which made the entire process easy and manageable. One of the challenges experienced was obtaining access to the respondents, as the choice of location was a high-security area. However, the location also allowed getting the entire sample group in one place at the same time. However, during the survey, the discourse of the surveyor could affect the attitude of the respondents and thus, the results and manageability of the entire process. A friendly approach yields better results within a short time; therefore, it is advisable to consider interpersonal skills before undertaking the task.
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Survey methodology works well for survey projects where the sample group consists of a small group of people. It is efficient for pilot projects such as this one as it takes a short time and allows for interaction between the person conducting the survey and the respondents while maintaining the reflexivity of the researcher. The resultant analysis is thus objective and accurate. However, the process presents a few challenges, including the establishment of a sample group, the location of the survey, access to the respondents, and the consideration of interpersonal skills. The questionnaire as a method of data collection also ensures that the information collected in the opinion of the respondents, which is not altered by the researcher as is possible in the recording of an interview. The survey was effective in answering the questions raised in the research, and it is thus efficient for this type of project.
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Do you own a mobile phone? Yes No
- What do you mainly use it for?
- Making calls
- Accessing social media sites
- Browsing the internet for information
- Music and games
How often do you use it in a day?
- Not often
How often do you meet with your family and close friends?
- Twice a week
- Twice a month
Do you use your phone while with family and friends? Yes No