Too distracted by your phone? Here’s how to regain the art of face-to-face conversation

two attractive woman friends in kitchen , one bored other texting on mobile phone

(iStock photo)

01/06/2016 |

Want to spend less time on your phone more time with friends? Two Purdue University communication experts have some advice for you.

“While technology helps us communicate with loved ones far away, these personal devices have impeded our ability to have conversations, to meet new people and have more meaningful face-to-face relationships,” says Glenn Sparks, a professor in the Brian Lamb School of Communication and co-author of “Refrigerator Rights: Our Crucial Need for Close Connection.”

Nearly 45 million Americans move each year, and when people relocate, technology is interfering with the capacity to have engagement and build face-to-face friendships.

“Because people are constantly checking their phones, the art of conversation is lost,” Sparks says. “They have less practice in carrying on casual conversations and have a hard time meeting people. While technology helps keep in contact with those far away, there is not the same emotional closeness.”

This also is compounded by fewer community gathering spaces and declining memberships in community and religious organizations.

“Lack of supportive relationships have profound effects on our physical health,” says Will, Miller, co-author of “Refrigerator Rights.” “People report more stress than ever before, and it’s due in part to the lack of meaningful connections in our lives.”

Here are tips to find meaningful relationships:

  • Visit or join a community organization. There are many religious options as well as volunteer opportunities.
  • Practice small talk. Make an effort to chat with people. It will take time, so be patient.
  • Silence personal devices when around others so you are not interrupted.

“Refrigerator Rights” was published in 2002, and a second edition was recently released.

Sparks is an expert in mass media effects including media violence, scary TV images and how communication technologies affect interpersonal relationships. Miller, an instructor in the Brian Lamb School of Communication, is a mental health expert who also was an on-air spokesman for Nick-at-Night and host of NBC’s “The Other Side.”

– Amy Patterson Neubert
See news release at