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Rapidly changing global work and education environments have presented many challenges for family members, friends, and romantic partners separated by the distance; thus, studies have shown that constant communication and interaction holds a prime importance in the maintenance of these relationships (Canary & Dainton, 2003 p.53). The purpose of this study is to explore the effects of mobile communication technology (MCT) on long-distance personal relationships. MCT is a current phenomenon that has rapidly grown from a nearly invisible base two decades ago to become an inevitable aspect of everyday human interaction. However, there is conflicting research evidence on the value of this mode of communication in maintaining interpersonal relationships. While some studies claim electronic communication strengthens family ties and romantic connections, other findings argue that it substitutes face-to-face social interactions and connections (Joseph, 1976). When focusing specifically on this new media in a transnational context, there is substantial research that suggests mobile communication technologies play a crucial role in family and romantic relationships. Hence, this study will attempt to accomplish an understanding of whether or not mobile communication technologies (MCT) maintains relationships between individuals separated by the distance and if it enhances personal connectedness by allowing families and social partners to move across transnational spaces. By examining various perspectives on MCT, transnationalism, and interpersonal relationships, I will focus on various questions.
Mediated communication does play a very integral role in the society. From mere phone calls to text messaging, email to the internet, mobile phones help in the facilitation of an important day to day communication. Significant researches have been dedicated to the study of mobile technology.
Mobile technology helps in maintaining both long distance and local relationships. Communication is vital in maintenance of long distant relationships and the mobile technology has aided these kind of efforts through giving people multiple choices of staying in touch. The use of mobile phones allows communication to transcend to great and vast distances. In researching on the communication patterns among the students, it has been observed that maintenance of relationships before starting college is crucial (Ziff, 1976).
The mobile phone as a main form of mediated communication is a very rich medium as compared to an email or an IM as a result of addition of auditory cues and synchronicity. Mobile phone conversations require the users to be available in order for communication to take place (Licoppe. 2004, pp 135-156). Mobile phone communication is usually seen as a more formal type of communication as compared to other forms of mediated communication for example text messaging and email (Maren, Patrick, Joachim, 2008, pp. 163). It is the best mode of communication for the family as well as distant friends since it is more interactive and rich in its nature.
Short message service is also seen as asynchronous type of communication since the users are not required to be present when the message is received or sent. Mobile phones are usually a convenient means of communication since they are usually readily available regardless of one’s location and the SMS makes it easy to transmit the messages easily.
Long distances romantic relationships are not usually a novelty as far as academic studies are concerned. Relationships are inevitably separated by job relocations, military obligations, and prison marriages among others. The long distance relationships are usually maintained through relying heavily on the availability as well as use of the communication technologies (Daniel & Marianne, 2003, pp. 51). Instant messaging and mobile phones are the most prevalent modes of communication that are used in daily basis among people in long distance relationships as compared to other means of communication.
It is lucid that maintaining of long distance relationships can be quite tough though mobile phones and other modern technologies have made life easier. Most couples are left debating on whether to be apart or together in order to maintain a healthy relationship (Sahlstein, 2004, pp. 689-710). However, though Sahlstein in her article emphasizes on use of mobile phones in order to maintain a healthy relationship among couples and family, logically, communication over the phone is not the only imperative aspect in a relationship. At times people need to see their partners and ascertain their reaction face to face. By asserting that mobile phones help in preventing breakups is completely illogical. During the olden days, couples in long distance relationships usually used to limit the time they spent talking to each other because of the costly phone bills. Today because of the amplified cell phone plans of free mobile to mobile as well as internet services, it is quite easy to stay in touch with one another. However, though research suggests that use of mobile phones is cheap; it is rational to note that cheap is relative. What might be cheap to one person might be expensive to another and therefore it is important to note that there are people who still cannot afford mobile phones and even operating it.
The migrants do not cut ties with their countries of origin but they maintain a close contact with them through transnationalism and use of mobile phone communication. Transnational experiences trigger people to focus on the rapidly evolving changes in technology. There are various factors that lead people to use particular technology as opposed to others. These are class, cultural values, settlement history, generation as well as access (Anastacia & Heather, 2006, pp. 109-124; Raelene, 2006. pp. 125-142). However, Anastacia and Heather’s article is limited and quite narrow on the grounds that those are not determinants to choosing a particular mode of communication as opposed to the other.
Studies on transnationalism and the media have oscillated between various assumptions. There are theories that do assume the immense role of the media in shaping the identities and other theories argue for the resilience of the local cultures, ethnic, national as well as the emergence of phenomena for example the long distance nationalism. Mobile phones have played a major role in the lives of transnational families.
Mobile communication is one of the fastest businesses globally. For example in Italy there are more mobile phones than even the inhabitants (Philip, Ludovico & Marco, pp. xvi). Mobile communication is a vital part of our each day life. Their prices have fallen as their functionality increase. For example in USA, 40% of the students in the middle and primary schools have mobiles thus communicating with their families and partners who are outside the country is not a problem to them.. 90% of the university students and 75% of the high school students have mobile phones (Philip, Ludovico & Marco). This has helped in making communication and life easier as far as maintaining children and parents relationships is concerned.
In Asia there have been tremendous increases in the number of mobile phones as well as Taiwan and Hong Kong where there are more phones than the inhabitants (Philip, Ludovico & Marco). The Jamaicans no longer rely on expensive calling cards or collect calls in order to communicate with their relatives and friends living abroad (Heather, 2006, pp. 143-159). To them mobile phones are unadulterated blessings that transform the main role of transnational communications from intermittent event to part of their daily life. To most critics, the mobile phone is usually seen as a major object of ambivalence that brings unforeseen obligations and burdens (Heather, 2006, pp. 143-159). This is because as much as it is useful, it also leads to disagreements between partners mostly through short messages.
Families and parents perceive their phones as a major way of consistently staying connected across divergent situations. The global acceptance and increase in the use of mobiles has created vast opportunities in the communication sector. It has led to enhancement of information flow among people living worlds apart and even in cases of emergencies (Sakkapoulos, Lytras &Tsakalidis, 2006, pp. 208-215; Atluri, Heechang & Vaidya, 2008, pp. 439-475).
Despite mobile technologies being effective in keeping relationships in control and active, there has been great assumption that mobile phones are cheap means of communication and easy to use. However, not everybody can afford using them thus more research needs to be focused on the use of mobile phones.
There has been little focus on the health effects of mobile phones and how to curb this catastrophe. In the recent years, there has been an immense increase as far as use of mobile phones is concerned as well as microwave radiations which ought to raise concerns on the possible health impacts. In a research done at Taipei the overall number of all mobile phone subscribers were 2.3 billion in the year 2006 which was expected to be 3.3 billion in 2011 (Fredrik, Lennart, Michael & Kjell, 2007). Most of the European countries do have a mobile phone penetration of over 100% meaning that there are obviously more subscribers as compared to the inhabitants (Fredrik, Lennart, Michael & Kjell, 2007).
In Japan about 40% of the entire populations have access to internet through mobile phones (Nansi, 2004, PP. 51). Mobile internet is a time enhancing practice as compared to the PC which is a time displacing practice (Kenichi, 2002, pp. 43-58).
The evolving forms of the mobiles permit the consideration of whether certain practices for example text messaging ought to be thought as the new form or means of communication in contrast with face to face interactions. The mobile’s strategic means of thinking about the new association forms is in technological terms a device which would render the location completely insignificant allowing access of worldwide networks (Steve, 2002, pp. 288).
When compared with other mode of communication, the mobile has an equivocal status which is quite complex to conceptualize. It belongs to the new media category though much of its literature is not pertinent. Speaking via phone has been seen to be so natural that the mediating technology has been forgotten and terms like cyberspace no longer seems to fit.
On a closer look at the empirical phenomena of the mobile device in the use of our every day life, we tend to find that the philosophy and sociology does consist of terms that are apt though have divergent referents for example problematization of private and public distinction, social mobility, structural transformation, phonocentrism, metaphysics of one’s presence and immutable mobile.
Most people argue that use of phones in public spaces makes the relation of public and private quite concrete as it brings private life into the social sphere. Moreover most critics assert that mobile phones do disturb the normal preference for silence in the public settings. The use of the mobile phones in the public space does have numerous implications for the normal suctioned behaviors. Its use usually becomes experience of discontinuity and spatial fragmentation where most activities are compartmentalized in a series of some fleeting encounters as well as impressions of just little duration.
According to some researchers, the mobile devices reconfigure the spaces of the social life in the urban areas (Steve, 2002, pp. 296). Introduction of the communication technologies that do not require any connection at any fixed location has led to re examination of what is really meant as distance, proximity and mobility.
In a study conducted by (Rebecca, 2002, pp. 21-30), it revealed that Instant Messaging has been globally adopted by the teenagers. There was a study of 16 teenage IM users. The study had shown some differences in the nature of mobile use between the college and high school teens. The differences were accounted by the teenager’s autonomy degree, internet access as well as transportation access. However, the article lacked deep analysis of the reason behind increase of teenage use of mobile phones. The author should have given some reasons like communicating with their partners or even family. Mobile phones are even used to send money between people who live far apart thus increased on its popularity.
There are numerous gaps in the study of mobile technology. Most of the case studies have not focused on the use of mobile phones alone and how it influences people and businesses but have focused so much on other means of communication like the internet. The studies have also failed to focus in details on the negative effects of mobile technology and only focusing on the affirmative side thus rendering most of the case studies biased.
The cultural shifting as well as the blending landscape that is occupied by various users usually fractures intimate relationships with cultural differences as well as physical distance. Use of the mobile phones helps people to negotiate on such relationships as well as the liminal spaces which are created by close couples of the modern life who have conservative values, coexistence of both local and global and the main tension which is experienced by the young people who are focused on being independent though connected with the people they love. High amount of mobile communication between couples is usually directly related to affirmative outcomes. Mobile communication hence reduces some relational uncertainty thus increasing intimacy.
The previous research has focused a lot on the importance of mobile phones in relationships and businesses though there is nothing much that has yet been written. The mobile technology has developed over years because of the reduced costs and its effectiveness. The colleges and generally the students as well as the teenagers have been the main methodology focus and have been used as the case study to denote the popularity of the mobile phones. There should be increased methodology on the same focusing on the businesses, the negative aspects of the mobile phones and generally the rate at which the popularity of the mobile phones have increased and the reasons behind the increase. To avoid biased results there should be analysis of all ages and gender in relation to the mobile technology. Carrying out of this research will help to give analysis and more insight on mobile technology and its effectiveness as well as its limitations. It will help the future researchers to focus on getting more detailed information on the same.
Mobile technology has changed the lives of many and has made life simpler in everyday life and in most sectors of life. Be it in businesses, relationships, effective communication, giving importance and prominence to privacy, carrying out researches and getting people involved in the ICT careers, mobile technology can never be underestimated. However, there are numerous limitations as the literature available has failed so far to focus immensely on other imperative facets and given the affirmative more prominence and priority. Future research and researchers should try to focus deeply on the topic in order to avoid bias and vague results.