Why Do We Communifake?

Dominique Gonzales is a chronic communifaker.

"Absolutely, I communifake," the 27-year-old told ABCNews.com. "It's a little rude if you just ignore somebody. But if I see somebody at work who I want to avoid speaking with, I'll just take out my phone and pretend to be making a call."

If that sounds unusual to you, you might be in the minority.

According to new research from British mobile operator 3, the deceit is particularly used -- or abused -- by younger people. It found that 74 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 24 admit to communifaking.

But it is widespread among the general population with 42 percent of women and 32 percent of men conceding they fake phone calls.

The most common reason, the study says, is that it's something to do while waiting for friends. But using the phone to avoid speaking with someone is the second most popular reason for some more merciless communifakers.

It's All About 'Impression Management'

Patricia Wallace, a psychologist at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, is an expert on information technology and psychology and said that the phenomenon can be explained, in part, by "impression management."

"If you go to a pub and you're sitting by yourself, that says something. Rather than to be thought of as a loner or not desirable as company, you use your virtual connection to look like you're more desirable and involved and actively engaged with others," she said.

In addition to demonstrating connections to others, she said, pretending to be on the phone gives people the opportunity to show off the phone: a very powerful status symbol.

In some countries, particularly developing countries, Wallace said, people even purchase fake cell phones so that they have something flashy to fondle and wield in front of others.

In wealthier countries, like the United States and United Kingdom, the iPhone and designer devices from Prada and Armani serve the same status-establishing purpose.

In fact, Wallace said, studies have shown that men, in particular, display their cell phones to win over women, much like birds preen their feathers to attract mates.

It's Just Something to Do

Tim Olmeda, a 26-year-old reporter from Corpus Christi, Texas, told ABCNews.com that he's been guilty of communifaking since he purchased his cell phone four years ago.

"Usually it's kind of limited to when I'm sitting alone or when I'm waiting for someone. It feels kind of weird to sit there and not do anything," he said.

"I don't necessarily want to talk to people; I just don't want to be looking like I'm alone," he said.

Even when he's with a group of people but not feeling comfortable, he said his fingers will mosey on over to the keypad.

Aaron Stanley, 48, an independent filmmaker in Mesa, Ariz., said he's done it to escape the clutches of pushy salespeople.

Once, he said, at a Chevrolet dealership, the car salesman was so aggressive, Stanley activated his phone in his pocket so that he'd have an excuse to steal away.

"It was just a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. He was so pushy and I just wasn't in the mood to get into a fight with him," he said. Stanley made his phone indicate a call and told the salesman his wife was calling to report an emergency at home.

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