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"It's our only connection": Mobile phones and romantic relationships in India

Carolyn Wei

This paper reports on a field study of mobile phone use in romantic relationships. This multimethod study included a questionnaire, interview, mobile phone use diary, and participant observation. The 20 participants, aged 18-30, were sampled primarily from a 24-hour technology support centre in Bangalore, India. We found that many of the participants depended on their mobile phones to facilitate connections with loved ones from whom they were separated geographically or culturally. Consequently, participants developed mobile phone behaviours that simulated face-to-face habits such as waking loved ones up or saying goodnight at bedtime. The findings suggest that the mobile phone is an emotional tool for nurturing romantic relationships and supporting users’ desires to occupy multiple symbolic spaces. Results are interpreted through the theoretical lens of hybridity and cyborgs, a framework that explains how mobile phone use is imbued with emotion and how users develop new lifestyles and connections with their phones.


mobile phone, digitally developing spaces, relationships, technology and society