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Shuai Yunyun, 21, from Shanghai University of Engineering Science found that her friends were all occupied with their smartphones during a high school friends meeting.

Or they were busy taking pictures of their meal and writing captions, before uploading them to their micro blogs. For a while, silence fell.

“I thought that we had a lot of topics to share, but few people were fully engaged in talking,” said the sophomore. “It seemed that there’s an unbridgeable gap between me and those with hand-held devices.”

Shuai, an aviation management major, is not the only one feeling segregated from others by mobile technology.

According to a latest survey of hundreds of teenagers in Hong Kong by Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, 54.29 percent of them would use cellphones while having dinner with their families. It has affected relationships with their parents.

The New York Times published an article recently lamenting the “death of conversation”.

It suggests that while technology such as cell phones, e-mails, and Internet posting make us feel more connected than ever, they’re also driving us away from people around us.

Users get ultimate connectivity at the price of sacrificing face-to-face conversation.

Sherry Turkle, author of the article in The New York Times says people are accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.”

Zhong Shunfeng, 20, a junior automation major at Southwest University, admits that he sometimes feels cut off from people by being obsessed with texting or updating blogs. He may ignore those nearest and has little interaction with them. “I then realize that it’s impolite and shows little respect,” he said. “Anyone texting in front of me while I’m talking would also embarrass me a lot.”

Actually, sending text messages or writing micro blogs allows us to exchange thoughts. But bits and pieces of online connection cannot substitute for a “real conversation”.

Lan Guo, 19, a freshman English major from Changsha University, said that she would like to hear people’s tone of voice and see their faces in a conversation. “The give and take of ideas in a conversation sharpens our minds,” she said. She also mentions that burying ourselves in mobile technology lessens our chance of striking up conversations with strangers and meeting people.

Turkle mentioned the popular idea of “I share, therefore I am” among this generation.

Liu Xuan, a young Taiwan writer and psychology graduate from Harvard University, thinks it’s a mindset adopted by a large proportion of young people. They are so busy creating or polishing their online persona that they forget how to live a real life.“For example, they may care more about tweeting about attending a party rather than enjoying being there.”

However, experts remind us that it’s unfair to blame mobile technology.

Chen Chen, a sociology expert at China Youth & Children Research Center, points out that, it is still gadget owners who’re shunning personal contact.

We avail ourselves of these devices to hide ourselves from others. Texting or calling may be an excuse to avoid contact with others, such as having eye contact. “The way to enhance conversation is by understanding each other. Simply throwing away the mobile gadgets is not a solution,” she said.

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