What do women want? Pockets!

At the end of April, researchers published a study into one of the great mysteries of our time: Why do people hold phones while walking?

A few weeks later, I was on my way somewhere, holding my phone, when I saw this news burbling up from the media cauldrons. The answer seemed so obvious I didn’t even bother to read the article. Of course I hold my phone while walking, I thought, because I generally don’t have pockets large enough to hold it. If my phone sinks to the bottom of my bag, it’s lost to the wilderness that is my bag bottom, and I don’t want to stop or pull out the contents of my bag to find it. I want it right there. In my hand. Ready to check texts or make calls or look at GPS or the time or take a picture or whatever else I want to do. That’s why I’m walking with it.

After getting especially worked up about this study and what I perceived as its infinite denseness with friends who shared my reaction, I finally read the piece, “Researchers wonder what it means when you keep your phone out without using it,” as published in the MIT Technology Review. The article did not soothe me, for reasons both petty and significant. First of all, the researchers, Laura Schaposnik and James Unwin at the University of Illinois at Chicago, dubbed this a “previously unobserved phenomenon,” i.e., “holding a phone for long periods of time without actually using it,” i.e., “phone walking.” Is this really new and unobserved? But fine, that’s a quibble. The problems are bigger. “Curiously, men and women engage in it to significantly different degrees,” the article explains.


Some info about the study: The researchers, who just watched people walk around Paris (an excellent gig, to be sure), found that “of the 3,038 adults they observed, 674 were phone walkers — a surprisingly large 22 percent of the total.” That might sound like a relatively trivial number, “[b]ut there were significant differences between the sexes,” explain the researchers. “In total, around 20 percent of men were phone walkers, compared with 33 percent of women.”

The researchers came up with a bunch of relatively unconvincing, fairly sexist reasons for this phenomenon: Women are more likely to have a “kind of dependency” on their phones. Their boyfriends “expect a reply [to their texts] within five minutes.” “Holding a phone makes it less likely to be stolen from a bag or pocket.” And perhaps worst of all: “Could it be that phone walking is becoming a kind of social plumage that indicates romantic status? Perhaps carrying a phone is equivalent, in some sense, to wearing a wedding ring.” WHAAAAAT?

The end of the article notes that “[i]t might also be useful to ask phone walkers whether they are indeed in a relationship or not,” which, yes, that seems wise, as does asking them why they’re holding their phones in …read more

Source:: The Week – Lifestyle


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