The Social Costs of Ubiquitous Information: Consuming Information on Mobile Phones Is Associated with Lower Trust

PLoS One. 2016 Sep 8;11(9):e0162130. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0162130. eCollection 2016.


In an age already saturated with information, the ongoing revolution in mobile computing has expanded the realm of immediate information access far beyond our homes and offices. In addition to changing where people can access information, mobile computing has changed what information people access-from finding specific directions to a restaurant to exploring nearby businesses when on the go. Does this ability to instantly gratify our information needs anytime and anywhere have any bearing on how much we trust those around us-from neighbors to strangers? Using data from a large nationally representative survey (World Values Survey: Wave 6), we found that the more people relied on their mobile phones for information, the less they trusted strangers, neighbors and people from other religions and nationalities. In contrast, obtaining information through any other method-including TV, radio, newspapers, and even the Internet more broadly-predicted higher trust in those groups. Mobile information had no bearing on how much people trusted close others, such as their family. Although causality cannot be inferred, these findings provide an intriguing first glimpse into the possible unforeseen costs of convenient information access for the social lubricant of society-our sense of trust in one another.

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information*
  • Cell Phone*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Trust*

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.