Technology & Relationships: Sorry, you’re breaking up …
One of the very things that connect us to other people is threatening relationships all over the world. It’s a catch-22, but studies are pointing to the potential relationship-wrecking effects of too much technology time: our need to connect via technology could be robbing us of the true connection we need with our loved ones.
According to Elise Heikkinen-Johnstone, a personal and organisational-development practitioner in Namibia, “Technology today is truly wonderful, helping with every aspect of our lives from banking to keeping fit. Smartphones and tablets connect us so easily with our loved ones. However, I often see couples and families sitting in coffee shops or restaurants and all of them are in their individual worlds tapping away on their gadgets. There is no interpersonal communication at the table, just people in their internal virtual worlds with their many apps. But as human beings we need face-to-face communication and also the physical closeness of one another.”
Namibian blogger Ros Limbo notes, “We are great at making friends, having long chats and sharing pictures, as long as it is limited to social media. The moment intimacy wishes to extend beyond the LCD screen, millennials freeze.”
Elise explains: “A large part of human communication is non-verbal, and includes posture, hand gestures and facial expressions. These are difficult to experience in the presence of technology. If the person you are having coffee with is constantly busy with his/her gadget, it sends a non-verbal message that their gadget is more important than you.”
Elise says that a regular stocktake on how technology is affecting our relationships is critical if we want to maintain intimacy with our partner and not with our smartphones. Her advice is to first check in with yourself to see where you stand regarding technology usage within your relationship.
- Become aware of when is it acceptable to engage with your gadgets, as every situation is certainly not okay.
- Ask yourself what is important to you: having a loving relationship or many friends in your virtual world.
- Ask yourself if your use of gadgets/technology bothers your loved ones.
Next, Elise notes that “regardless if you see your frequent technology use as troublesome or not to your relationships, I would suggest some serious weekly technology-detox time.”
Elise’s tips include having a rule not to use gadgets when you are with your loved ones, unless you are expecting communication on a serious matter. Even then, inform your significant other that you are expecting this communication. She also suggests turning off your gadgets for one weekend a month and using that time with loved ones. It can feel scary, she says, but is well worth it and can be truly liberating: “When you allow yourself to fully give your attention to others, you will see improvements in communication and also your general levels of happiness.”