Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Intersection of Cell Phone Use and Leisure: A Call for Research

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Intersection of Cell Phone Use and Leisure: A Call for Research

Article excerpt

The modern cell phone is no longer simply a utilitarian device for communication. Instead, todays cell phones feature many of the same capabilities as an internet connected computer, allowing users to engage in a wide range of activities including surfing the web, multi-player gaming, watching videos and live sports, social networking through Facebook and similar sites, capturing and sharing photos and videos, text messaging, and phone calls. As such, the cell phone has become an influential social object which permeates nearly every aspect of life from work to leisure.

Nowhere, it seems, do cell phones have greater social influence than on college campuses. Todays college students are the vanguard of the first cohort of young people raised entirely in the digital era and are rapid adopters of cell phone related technologies. According to a 2010 survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 96% of undergraduate students and 99% of graduate students in the U.S. own a cell phone. As a result, the cell phone has become an integral part of their culture and identity, earning them the moniker "digital natives" (Palfrey & Gasser, 2008). In short, the cell phone is pervasive among today's college students and may be changing the way they perceive and consequently engage with the world around them.

Yet, to date, very few scholars in leisure studies have explored the relationship between cell phones and leisure. A notable exception is by Australian researchers Foley, Holzman, and Wearing (2007) who may be the first scholars to identify cell phone use as an influential leisure activity. They argue that cell phone use has symbolic and functional importance for adolescent women. Symbolically, cell phone use can be a fashion statement thereby serving as a prop for identity development and maintenance. Functionally, cell phone use can increase access to leisure in public spaces. Likewise, in tourism studies, emerging research has identified relationships between tourists' cell phone use and their behaviors and experiences (Wang, Park, & Fesenmaier, 2012; White & White, 2007).

This limited research points to an intersection between cell phone use and leisure which is not yet fully explored. The purpose of this paper is to further an understanding of this topic by reviewing emerging research from the broader social science and technology literature. Because college students are rapid adopters of cell phone technology, much of the existing research focuses on this demographic and suggests that cell phone use may be influencing their leisure in a number of ways. After examining the existing research, this paper suggests possible directions for leisure studies and concludes with a call for leisure scholars to consider this timely and socially relevant subject. As such, this paper makes two contributions to the field of leisure studies. First, this paper highlights the intersection of cell phone use and leisure among college students. Second, this paper provides the foundation for a more theoretical understanding of the topic which will allow research to expand to older and younger populations.

Multidisciplinary Research on Cell Phones and Behavior: Insights for Leisure Studies

Beyond leisure studies, a more general body of research exists exploring the relationship between cell phone use and human behavior. A close reading of this research suggests that cell phone use may have multiple effects on leisure, some positive and some negative. Certainly, any aspect of leisure that depends on communication is likely to be affected by cell phones. Indeed, cell phones have changed the way people communicate, particularly college students. Research by Skierkowski and Wood (2012) found text messaging is now the most common form of communication among today's college students and restrictions on texting lead to feelings of anxiety and loneliness. Their research demonstrated that among this demographic the maintenance of peer relationships depends on text messaging. …

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