Technology in our lives is exponentially growing in the amount of time we use it and what parts of our lives are helped by it. Technology has made our lives easier, helped us be more effective in our work and allowed us to connect with friends, family and colleagues across the world. However, often with rapid change, there is a cost. And far too often, relationships are suffering because of the effects of technology and how it dominates our world.
Whatever your position on technology, the simple facts are, we can’t avoid it. Technology is embedded into every part of our day, from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep at night. Unless you live in a cave, or somewhere very remote with no contact with others, we actually need technology to go about our day-to-day living.
Here are some of my thoughts on the problematic areas of technology in the realm of relationships.
Technology promotes connection and disconnection
Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. In fact, a large part of my work and personal life involves using technology. From organising my work-life online, to communicating with friends and family on social networks, I can’t imagine life without it. However, with all the advances in technology to help us communicate faster, cheaper and clearer, many people are more lonely and isolated than ever before.
For some people, they can use technology to create psyeudo-connection. By this I mean a person can create the illusion or perception that they are very connected, engaged and vibrant, when the reality is they are anything but. This tends to happen when a person does all their engaging online, yet doesn’t meet with people in the offline world.
Unfortunately, I meet many people in my practice who are profoundly lonely, disconnected and isolated from others, yet by all appearances, are very connected with technology. They may have hundreds of Facebook friends or Twitter followers, yet their cries of loneliness go unheard.
The key here is to find a balance of connection online AND connection offline. I think technology is great to facilitate connection, but then take it into the real world, where something of substance can be developed.
Connection with technology can be shallow
Technology can help you initiate relationships and connect with people that you may not have been able to previously. This is a wonderful aspect of technology. I have met colleagues all over the world, and even become wonderful friends with some of them, all facilitated by technology.
But on the flip side, technology can promote superficial and shallow relationships. While you may have 350 Facebook friends, how many of them could you truly lean on in a time of crisis? The dilemma here is that while you may have many surface-level relationships with technology, you might be missing a couple of key people in your life that can really make a difference to you and your well-being.
It was only a number of decades ago that the only way you could connect with a friend was by picking up a phone or walking around to their house for a cup of tea and a chat. I think the mental health of people in those past decades was better, mostly because people connected in a real way; they connected in the flesh and were present with each other. You learned how to ask for help, reached out for support and gave a helping hand to your fellow neighbour.
Technology can mean instant gratification and lasting dissatisfaction
Technology has certainly promoted our culture of instant gratification and the need for fast and immediate satisfaction. If you buy something online, you now expect an instant email confirming all your purchase details and the ability to track the expedited delivery of your item. Or you download a movie and feel dismayed at having to wait 5 minutes (or more) for the movie to stream.
We live in a culture of desire, immediate need and instant gratification. However, what you may be losing is the ability to ‘chew things over.’ What I mean is developing the ability to reflect on yourself and others and then taking your time to make a decision.
One of the areas I see this play out in relationships is the couple that have an instant connection and rapport, and then fast-forward their relationship to moving in, marriage and/or having kids. They haven’t taken the time to get to know one another and allow things to unfold in a natural and organic way. As a result, they often find they have rushed into a relationship without fully knowing someone. On the other side, technology can also mean the instant end of a relationship without having to deal with facing the person and talking through the issues.
This entire process is often supported by the instant communication and always-ready-and-available position that technology allows.
What’s helpful to remember here is that even though your technology can help you communicate at light speed, you, as a human being, might need more time to work out what you want and how you want it. Slow yourself down, take time out to reflect and support yourself in making sound decisions that will impact you greatly in the future.
The culture of ‘busy me’ leads to a disconnected ‘we’
We live in a time of unparalleled busyness. Technology allow us to be instantly connected and tuned-in at all times to others. With the emergence of smartphones, it now means we are almost never away from our work email, friends updates, text messages and notifications of the location of family.
All this busyness has an impact on the ‘I’ and the ‘we’ of our relationships. You maybe working harder than you ever have, you’re more connected to work, friends and family than you thought was possible, but the real question is, how connected are you to yourself and your partner?
When was the last time you had a meal together with no distractions? A night you didn’t play on your iPhone or read your iPad in bed? Or a day without technology for that matter? No phones, sms, iPad, emails, DVDs, TV or computers? If that sounds like a strange idea, you’re not alone. Being connected to technology at all hours of the day has become the modern-day disease.
Try having a technology-free day or (gasp!) weekend. See what it’s like to not be connected to your friends, or checking your email 30 times a day. Notice what else is in your life when you take technology away. You might be surprised by what you discover.
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photo credit: © Dragos Iliescu – Fotolia.com
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.