Constantly on the Phone - Blame Social Capital

I do a lot of traveling in my work and have been interested in airport travel behavior.  More specifically, the constant cell phone use you see in all phases of travel.  Next time you are in the airport, pay attention to the number of people on their cell phones.  In Chicago the other day, virtually everyone I passed or saw sitting in the waiting areas in Midway were on their phone.

Initially this amused me as I thought these people, or the folks they are talking with can not be that important.  Perhaps it is boredom.  Anyone who spends time on the road know it is not glamorous as others may think.  There is constant down time, and the boredom can be amazing.  So maybe all these people on their phones are just bored - perhaps.

But the more I come to understand social capital, I am now coming to a new conclusion - this constant phone behavior is not boorish, but rather is caused by the power and potency of social capital.  We are so bonded with people that we need to "be" with them, even when we are gone.

Think about it - most of your travel calls are usually to/from family and friends.  Sure, we have the occasional business or professional call, but I would bet these pale in the face of the social relationship calls.  And, when we are not talking to friends, we are often surfing Facebook to see our friends lunch special, or read a rant they have about something or another.  This pulling power is caused by social capital and our cell/smart phones have now allowed us to harness and frame this power.

So the next time you travel and see everyone on their phones, don't shake your heads or be smug. Realize that we are all deeply influenced by our relationships and in a way, when we use our phones to connect with our social capital we are tending to the primitive urge of relating.