Cell phones are turning us all into jerks

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You may have suspected this already, but researchers from the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business have confirmed it: your cell phone is making you into a bad person. But they're not talking about people who yell into their Bluetooth headsets in crowded elevators or those who stop walking in the middle of the sidewalk to write out a text. (Both of those people are awful, and you should try your hardest not to be them.) No, it turns out that, according to the results of their experiment, talking on your phone (or even thinking about your phone) makes you less likely to engage in "prosocial behavior," or actions which benefit another person or society.

And we're not talking about something that even takes all that much work, like donating your bone marrow or building eco-friendly houses for disabled refugees with rescue dogs. We're talking about something as small as helping to solve math questions:

…[A]fter using a cell phone, study participants were more likely to turn down volunteer opportunities and were less persistent in completing word problems, even though they knew their answers would provide money for charity.

The same drop in prosocial tendencies occurred even when participants were simply asked draw a picture of their cell phones and think about using them.

The researches have hypothesized that your phone satisfies your need to connect with other people, and as a result, you're less likely to feel motived to help or empathize with the people who are actually around you. (Somewhat surprisingly, using a site like Facebook didn't have as strong of an effect on that need as the phones did.) So, if you ever find yourself feeling the need to work on your good karma, tip number one: leave your phone at home.