How Technology Affects Relationships
Technology has created a paradigm shift in the way we all communicate and connect with one another. As computer chips have gotten smaller and faster, it seems as if we have access to the whole world at our fingertips in our everyday lives. When it comes to meeting potential life partners, the internet provides a huge array of opportunities for people to introduce themselves to one another, but with that opportunity also comes a whole new set of challenges and responsibilities. Looking for a soul mate on an internet dating site in the comfort of our own Wi-Fi connection can at least keep all of our insecurities in check until the first meet-and-greet. But the fun really begins when the ideal online profile and photo runs into the reality of the first face-to-face impression! If the real person we meet ends up being far different from the ideal person we’ve read about, then it’s pretty hard not to mistrust someone who has misrepresented themselves—before any kind of relationship has even been established!
Because of the whiz-bang speed that technology has served up to us to access information, we have become hooked on immediate gratification. Press a button and you have an instant connection, feedback and update on relationship status all through texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, chat forums, blog sites, instant messaging, and e-mails. This sets a low bar for frustration tolerance when it comes to getting our needs met in relationships because it actually takes time to establish trust with another human being. If someone in a face-to-face moment with their partner is not feeling they are getting their needs met, it is much too easy to run to the internet to satisfy that need for affirm ration. The problem is that accessing the internet has absolutely nothing to do with accessing self-respect, which really is what is needed in those frustrating relationship moments. While the internet is here to stay and has a productive place in our lives, the energy we direct toward the internet—when it becomes a distraction from our partners—takes energy out of our intimate relationships.
The internet has become a huge escape route for many. Marriages stuffer as couples sit and stare at their computer and phones at the expense of conversation and connection with their mate. How many of us can get through a dinner without checking our cell phones? Receiving text messages and voicemails triggers our need to make sure we don’t miss out on something important—all the while forgetting that the most important thing in our life is sitting right across from us. So in addition to having the separate experience that sitting and staring at the TV or movie screen is with our partners, we now contend with an additional distraction with electronic devices. The amount of time that adults and children spend on the computer has reduced the communication between parents and their children due to the lack of quality time they spend together. Children are not learning the art of socializing, conversation, and connection. Theirs is a generation of multi-taskers and video-gamers. All of these distractions heighten the development of ADHD while at the same time lowering the experience of being present in the moment with themselves and with others.
While electronic devices and the internet have probably helped us all organize our lives in many ways, we also need to take steps to minimize the negative effects of technology on our relationships. So at the very least: a) make agreements about how much time everyone spends on the internet aside from work or school, b) agree to have “o ine” days and see how the energy shifts towards each other and with your children, c) devote time to talking at dinner where everyone is unplugged, and d) teach your children through example and talk to them about the importance of personal connection. Whatever the future holds for us in terms of technological advances, we cannot imagine a future that substitutes technology for good old-fashioned, face-to-face, human interaction. All our best, Dr. He ~ Dr. She