Research Proposal

  • Category:
  • Document type:
  • Level:
  • Page:
  • Words:


Impact of cellphones on society

Table of Contents

Introduction 3

Rationale/Importance 4

Research question 4

Objectives of the research 4

Literature review 5

Theoretical framework 8

Hypothesis development 9

Research methods 9

Conclusion 9

References 10


Cellphones offer a unique opportunity of examining how new technologies and media affect and reflect on the social world. As mobile phones gain increased use, social interactions through these technologies continue to gain prominence. A number of studies have shown that emergences of cellphones changed the nature of social interaction among colleagues, friends and family (Katz & Aakhus, 2002; Sarwar & Soomro, 2013; Humphreys, 2005). According to Katz and Aakhus (2002) mobile phones directly or indirectly affect professional and personal lives of people. Undoubtedly, diverse aspects of modern society such as technological landscape, social life and culture of people have been transformed by emergence of mobile phones (Sarwar & Soomro, 2013).

Organizational and social fabric of our world is affected by technological innovations and not its discrete effects. People’s construction and use of new technologies have altered customary social distances among citizens and solved old problems of managing space and time in communicative relationships (Humphreys, 2005). While providing access to broad range of information and improved communication, Smith (2012) argues that cellphones weaken people’s interpersonal skills and distract them from important activities. Moreover, cellphones allow consumers to purchase products directly, search for discounts and obtain information (Valk et al., 2010). On the other hand, Nolen (2013) argues that mobile phones are reducing family conversation and the ability to communicate in face-to-face dialogue. This indicates that the discourse on the effect of new technologies such as mobile phones is getting more attention in literature from academicians and psychologists.

This research study will unravel the positive and negative impacts of cellphones on society by collecting and analyzing information from users. The data and methodology will be covered in detailed in later parts of this proposal. While previous searches on literature shows articles covering the effects of new technologies on society, current studies have focused on mobile phones as a component of new technologies. By researching on cellphones, it is anticipated that this study will not only bring out the impacts of cellphones on people, communities and organizations but also contribute to the large body of literature on influence of new technologies on society.


The reason of undertaking this research and why it is important is that society is getting more engrossed with new technologies that has altered interactions and created a whole new social landscape. To understand how people use cellphones, there is need to research on social interactions. Furthermore, norms of social interactions in public places may have changed due to new technologies. In order to examine the broader impact of mobile devices, there must be mobile phone ownership and high levels of wireless technology penetration to different forays and layers of society. Although mobile phone users perceive positive benefits to mobile technologies, there are constant drawbacks related to mental temptations and connectivity that these cellphones offer.

Research on cellphones will highlight the time and costs saving capabilities of mobile phones regardless of age and levels of income. Again, constant dependence on mobile phones is likely to affect interpersonal skills of people and their interpersonal communication. Children are part of a group that needs to be protected from the negative impacts of cellphones especially with regard to data usage, texting and talking. This indicates that parenting will be a difficult role where children become obsessed with cellphones and engage more of their time playing games and visiting websites.

The overall importance of this study will be to assess the impacts of cellphones on people’s lives and the society at large. Some of the positive impacts include getting in touch with loved ones, improved connections with family and friends, and ease of scheduling and planning daily routines. Conversely, negative impacts include divided attention, weakened interpersonal relationships and lack of focus on a single task without getting distracted. As the social fabric of society is getting tested, emergence of cellphones has changed its construction and the ability to adjust to changes.

Research question

How has the emergence of cellphones impacted society?

Objectives of the research

This research study will be guided by the following objectives

  1. To examine the impact of cellphones on social life of people

  2. To find out the impact of cellphones on people’s culture

  3. To investigate the impact of cellphones on society’s education and health

From the discussion of importance of this research study, the target consumers will be potential and existing users of mobile phones. This topic is critical is assessing how cellphones has affected their social life, culture, education and health.

Literature review

Norms of social interaction are reinforced by observation of behavior in public places. Hopper (1992) suggested tacit social rules to telephone use while Goffman model extolled normative behavior in public places. However, Katz et al (2003) observed that there is a complex interplay between new technologies, social groups, the body and fashion.

In understanding the cellphones introduction into public spaces, Goffman and Hopper developed models that showed how normative social interaction is influenced by technology. As phones gain more prominence in public contexts, traditional landline phone use will change. In the argument of Katz, fear of technology that it is engulfing society is misplaced, with regard to personal communication technologies, and tends to neglect the human agency involved. Mizuko (2003) in a research on influence of mobile technologies on Japanese youth helped to deepen broaden social and cultural uses of mobile phones. Using ethnographic methodological approach, the author found that mobile technology has influenced the social organization, liberation from parental control and fashion Japanese teenagers. Common dilemmas and social rules quickly surround new media, especially cellphones. Socialization and problem solving among people has been facilitated by new technologies out of which the interactions engender a whole new social landscape. To understand how people use cellphones, it is important to research on social interaction and new technologies.

Nurfit (2012) argues that while cellphones enable people to remain connected all times, it engages people in dangerous activities to society and creates own micro-cultures. This means that participation in social groups and building interpersonal relationships is enhanced by sharing of mobile resources. Although mobile devices allow defining groups, Lugano (2008) disagrees that it can offer broad range of actions that relate to communication and group management. Cellphone usage according to some studies is subject of functional expansion (Palen, et al., 2001). This is because users learn to apply the new technology and gradually change habits so as to widen the range of situations and grow variety of purposes. Palen et al (2001) conducted a diachronic study of 19 users of new cell phone and found that subjects enlarge the range of uses that evolve with time by starting with narrow conceptions on the need for a mobile phone.

Most individuals refer to instrumental functions as a primary motive for adopting a cell phone such as the chance to call for help in emergency cases (Palen et al., 2001) and obtaining reassuring information regarding loved-ones’ well-being (Ling & Yttri, 1999). Specifically, many initial users do not imagine using the cellphone as a ubiquitous instrument of daily life but instead used only in special non-routine situations. The amount of cell phone usage in a quantitative perspective unfolds in three independent axes; usage intensity, usage breadth and usage variety. Ram and Jung (1990) suggest that usage intensity relates to product usage time regardless of different product applications while usage breadth indicates the number of partners to whom calls are received and whom calls are directed. On the other hand, usage variety measures different product application regardless of its frequency of use.

Cellphones contrast sharply to TV-Sets, personal computers and other electronic equipment due to its ability to personalize. This is because it comes with individual display images, ring tones and colors. In a way, it supports gender-related identity profiles. According to Skog (2002) cellphones emphasizes the aesthetic and interactional features based on ‘soft style’ adaptation for females and ‘hard style usage’ for males. In theory building, the empirical evidence of questionable relevance is rather limited in terms of systematic quantitative studies gathered. More plausible hypothesis has been provided numerous studies based on impressionistic essays and ethnographic (qualitative) methods.

In dense urban crowdings, cell phones make it easier for individuals to spatially locate and identify themselves near to complete strangers. By just contacting their loved ones at home, cellphones provide them with a ‘virtual exit option’ (Nolen, 2013). A new trans-spatial version of particularistic communalism is engendered by the rise of cellphones. Modern urban living conditions enforce mobility that is compatible with primordial modes of social integration.  .with bystanders casual relationshipmomentary  just like aor kin
broken in favour of the intruding distant frienddominance exerted by such communalistic ties is Gergen (2002) argues that whenever a phone call occurs, the . This is when no calls are expected from unpredictable new sources such as survey institutions and insurance agents. Hyman, 2014)anecdotal illustrations, are used to shield oneself from the narrower realm of social relationships in unpredictable contingencies of with friends or close kin (Fortunati, 2000). In contrast to fixed phone numbers, cell phone numbers publicized in phone books, are usually only enhances communication within a narrow circle of self-chosen acquaintances and friends (in suggestive Mobile devices,

Altman and Taylor (1973) developed the Social Penetration Theory in which the text messaging concept of mobile phone as argued is impersonal and popular with many people. Through this method, people communicate and develop deeper intimacy with others through forms of vulnerability and mutual self-disclosure (Schlimm, 2010; Hart, 2010). This proves that it could take a very long time to start a new relationship with a stranger using mobile phones or social media. In developing the Social Penetration Theory, the authors maintained that verbal self-disclosure is the main route to deep social penetration. Similarly, Joseph Walther (1992) developed the Social Information Processing Theory which stated that it is the continuum of communication technologies that people form relationships. Elsewhere, Gouran et al. (1993) identified four types of communication; identifications of alternatives, goal setting, problem analysis and evaluation of negative and positive characteristics of each alternative as determinants of success in group decision making. According to Griffin et al. (2015) social tools, than they otherwise would, help groups to reach better conclusions. The success of any group function in a group setting is through face-to-face communication where mobile phone users during these sessions contribute to the detriment of that success.

The rise in cellphone demand, high speed mobile browsing and the availability of the internet provides an alternative channel to deliver education services. As a result, users get the opportunity to utilize their cellphones in educational resource access at their disposal regardless of their location. Distance education as argued by Sarwar and Soomro (2013) is a learning mechanism that offers flexible opportunities for education by focusing to liberate students from limitations of location and time. Conversely, cellphones by allowing students to access online information not only encourages bullying and hazing but also to cheating in exams. The impact of a new innovative technology on traditional learning theory has been demonstrated through constructivist learning theory. Karagiorgi and Symeou (2005) in constructivist learning theory enable the mobile technology to focus on the ability of the students to draw conclusions and be self-directed. In the implementation of mobile technologies, constructivist learning theory diverges from other traditional educational theories as it allows students to have a teacher as a facilitator and work independently (Riley, 2013).  Rather than being told reasons as to why something works, students learn more on experimentation and exploration.

In real world situations, students stay with cellphones for a longer period of time as they learn (Srivastava, 2005). Instead of imposing value on the individual mobile technology, under constructivist learning theory, allows the individual to place worth on cellphones. Utilizing and realizing this principle is based on the development of a hybrid model where integration in the educational setting impacts mobile technology. Moreover, there are available apps in use to track blood pressure, diet and exercise. Conversely, some cellphones can access to health resources which can create a dangerous precedent as patients learn to avoid personal interactions with doctors.

Theoretical framework

This study utilizes the theories and models used discussed in the review of literature above. The theoretical contribution and framework constitutes:

  • Social Penetration Theory by Altman and Taylor (1973)

  • Constructivist Learning Theory by Karagiorgi and Symeou (2005)

  1. Social Penetration Theory

This theory was developed by Altman and Taylor (1973). It is based on the fact that as people communicate, they develop deeper intimacy. It emphasizes two major aspects;

  • Verbal self-disclosure

  • Mutual self-disclosure

A conceptual model is then developed from the above factors

Research Proposal

This theory was chosen because it connects the verbal and mutual relationships among people in personal communication in order to built social relationships. Cellphones are conduits that facilitate personal communication.

  1. Constructivist Learning Theory

This theory will be used in this study since it exploits the fact that subjects are told reasons as to why something works as they learn more on experimentation and exploration. As a result, students tend to obtain value and self-worth. This model identifies the following;

  • Exploration

  • Experimentation

  • Value and self-worth

The theory observes that people use mobile technology to explore and experiment in order to be self-directed and to draw conclusions.

Hypothesis development

A number of hypotheses were developed from the research study. To start with, cellphones were seen have both negative and positive impact on people’s lives and society. The first hypothesis developed is;

  1. Cellphones has created more value and self-worth in social relationships

This is because people base their relationships on value and healthy relationships which is enhanced by mobile technology


  1. Emergence of cellphones has enable more verbal and mutual performance in education and health

  2. Mobile technology has impacted on people’s social and psychological culture

Research methods

This study will be based on secondary sources which major sources of data and participants being journals and databases. Being an historical study, the research will involve Google Search of various articles and journals that highlight the impacts of cellphones on society. The data will be gathered and analyzed using qualitative measures. The independent variables will be mobile technologies (cellphones) while dependent variables include value and self-worth in social relationships, verbal and mutual performance and people’s social and psychological culture.


This research study is about the impacts of cellphones on society. The research will be based on Social Penetration Theory and Constructivist Learning Theory. Being a historical research study, a number of databases and journals will be reviewed and analyzed. The focus on qualitative studies is to allow in-depth understanding of mobile technologies and how it impacts society.


Altman, I & Taylor, D 1973, Social Penetration: The Development of Interpersonal relationships. New York, NY: Holt.

Fortunati, L 2000, The Mobile Phone: New Social Categories and Relations. University of Trieste.

Gergen, KJ 2002, The challenge of absent presence. In: Katz, James E. / Aakhus Mark A. (eds.) Perpetual Contact. Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Gouran, D., Hirokawa, R., Julian, K., & Leatham, G. (1993). The evolution and current status of the functional perspective on communication in decision-making and problem-solving groups. Communication Yearbook 16. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Griffin, E Ledbetter, A & Sparks, G 2015, A First Look at Communication Theory. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Hart, V 2010, Text Messaging. Journal of psychosocial nursing and mental health services, vol. 48, no. 12, pp. 5-6.

Humphreys, L 2005, Cellphones in public: social interactions in a wireless era. New Media Society, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 810-823.

Hyman, IE 2014, Cellphones are changing social interactions.

Karagiorgi, Y & Symeou, L 2005, Translating Constructivism into Instructional Design: Potential and Limitations. Educational Technology & Society, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 17-27.

Katz, JE & Aahkus, MA 2002, Perpetual contact: Mobile communication, private talk, public performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ling, R & Yttri, B 1999, Nobody Sits at Home and Waits for the Telephone to Ring:” Micro and Hyper-Coordination through the Use of the Mobile Telephone. Telenor Forskning og Utvikling, FoU Rapport, 30/99.

Lugano, G 2008, Mobile social networking in theory and practice. First Monday Journal, vol. 13, no. 11, pp. 45-53.

Nolen, B 2013, Mobile phones and society: How being constantly connected impacts our lives.

Palen, L Salzman, M & Youngs, E 2001, Going Wireless: Behavior & Practice of New Mobile Phone Users. Boulder CO.

Ram, S & Jung, H-S, 1990, The Conceptualization and Measurement of Product Usage. Journal of the Academy ofMarketing Science, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 67-76.

Riley, G 2013, Mobile phones: The impact on the economy, society and our personal lives. Tutor2u.

Sarwar, M & Soomro, TR 2013, Impact of smartphones on society, European Journal of Scientific Research, vol. 98, no. 2, pp. 216-226.

Schlimm, K 2010, The effects of cellphones in modern society.

Skog, B 2002, Mobiles and the Norwegian Teen: Identity, gender and class. In: Katz, James E. / Aakhus, Mark A. (eds.): Perpetual Contact. Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2002; pp. 255-273.

Smith, A 2012, The impact of mobile phones on people’s lives. PewResearchCenter.

Srivastava, L 2005, Mobile phones and the evolution of social behavior. Behaviour & Information Technology, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 111-129.

Valk, J-H, Rashid, AT & Elder, L 2010, Using mobile phones to improve educational outcomes: An analysis of evidence from Asia. Pan Asia Networking, Canada.

Walther, J 1992, Interpersonal effects in computer-mediated interaction: a relational perspective. Communication Research, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 52-90.

Walton, A 2014, The cellphone: Positive impacts on our society. Techin.