Have you experienced the disturbing effects of technology on your relationships?
I love technology. I just can't get enough of it sometimes- I want the latest gadget, app, hardware or software program. I love that it's made doing business across the world with colleagues a joy, and I love staying in touch with all my family and friends that are scattered far and wide. 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.
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.
The problem is, technology can get in the way of healthy relating. Here are some of the most common problems I see with technology and relationships:
Technology promotes connection AND disconnection
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.
Relationship connections 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.
Technology can mean instant gratification and lasting relationship 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 30 minutes (or more) for the download.
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.
This entire process is often supported by the instant communication and always-read-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 busy-ness. 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 busy-ness 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.
What's your experience of how technology effects your relationship? Please leave your comments below.