With This Ringtone I Stay In Touch With Life As I Know It
Tuesday July 17, 2007
THE greatest witness to Laura Fitzgerald's long-distance love affair has been the tiny screen of her mobile phone.Since partner Phil Wilkes returned to England in March, the two have logged hundreds of hours of talk and text messages in their bid to stay in touch.In this, the two are typical of couples who are routinely separated by geography. New research by the Australian National University, the University of New England and the University of New South Wales found that mobiles were an important tool for more than 75 per cent of couples who spent more than a day apart. "They've created a new way of being with someone which in the literature is called "connected presence" and basically that's a kind of disembodied presence," researcher Michael Bittman said."So just like you've had with the internet, you get quite substantial relationships either forming or being maintained via this." Text messages from her partner were like "little letters", Ms Fitzgerald said, and Professor Bittman said it was this kind of symbolic contact that contributed to mobile phones' appeal."The major content of the message in a way is that you're there and you care about the other person," he said. The study was funded under the auspices of the Australian Research Council Linkage Grant and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association. It is a condition of the funding process that findings remain independent from industry influence.More than 1300 people were surveyed and preliminary results found that more than 90 per cent said their lives could not "proceed as normal" if they were suddenly without their mobile phones. Half of employed people said their mobiles increased their workload, but these (usually) diminutive handsets were found to have little overall impact on people's leisure time. The sexes had competing interests when it came to mobile phone use. Nearly 40 per cent of men used their phones for work or study-related reasons, compared with 11 per cent of women. The women surveyed overwhelmingly used mobiles for social uses.Men were also significantly more likely than women to take the phone away on holiday to maintain contact with work.More than half the employed respondents believed mobiles helped them balance their family and working lives, mainly using their phones to co-ordinate and keep track of their families.For Ms Fitzgerald, her mobile has become an integral aspect of her relationship. But there are some things modernity cannot top. "Getting something in the post just beats everything else," she said. "Phones are really good, but that's really the best."