In the past 10 years we have seen an explosion in new forms of social technologies. With the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, texting, smartphones, and tablets, connecting to anyone and everyone is virtually possible. We now have more ways to “connect” with people but is this new form of communication causing a disconnect with those most important to us?
One of the top complaints I hear is that, “my spouse” or “my kid” or “my parent” is always __________(insert your preferred mode of communication) and its driving me crazy! I feel like they don’t even care if I’m around!” Have you ever heard this? Have you ever felt this way? Every single client I have seen in the past 3 years has listed this as a major cause of contention in their relationships.
I think we can all admit to ignoring those around us in favor of the internet or texting instead of actually talking face to face with someone. I know I’ve done it. We think these forms of communication are so much easier but we forget that they come at a cost. They add to the deterioration of our closest relationships.
There are integral parts of communication that are missed when we engage in these modes of communication. We aren’t able to communicate what is unspoken, like body language and tone of voice. These two aspects of communication convey more than the words that actually come out of our mouths! Experts say up to 80% of meaning is derived from nonverbal cues. Trust and clarity increase when our nonverbal cues match up to our verbal words. They are lost when we text, IM, email, or use social media. Its no wonder that so many arguments occur when we use these ways to “talk.” They can engender a false sense of connection.
Technology also offers us as “easy out” when it comes to our day to day lives. Within seconds we can check out of our physical world and check in to the virtual world. Heaven forbid that we should talk to our spouse or children in the car! Its just so much more interesting to see what everyone else is doing on the internet than ask your family member how their day is going (I hope you can sense my sarcasm). We take for granted those hours of down time such as being in the car or when we watch TV together as an opportunity for connection.
Technology also allows our work life to intermix with our personal lives in a way that we have never seen before. Through the use of our smartphones, we can now work 24 hours a day. Have your clients or boss ever emailed while you were at dinner or watching your kids soccer game? Did you feel compelled to respond? Most people have and most people do. What does that tell the people you are with? Do they feel less important, like they don’t matter?
We crave a connection with those we love. When we don’t feel that connection we can start to act out in order to get attention.
However, attention is empty. It does not tie us to anyone, and it does not fill our social needs.
How do we combat this?
It is quite simple:
- Make a conscious choice to turn off the phone. Every call or email you get does not have to be answered immediately.
- Institute “technology free” times around your home that will promote conversations between family members. Not sure if this will work? Bring out a board game, pick up a hobby that multiple people would like, or better yet get outside and play a sport with your kids. Just don’t make your phone a part of this. You will be amazed by the connection you develop while participating in activities with your partner and family.
- Come up with rules for technology use with your partner or family. Ask them how they are affected by your use of these devices. You might not not even realize the repercussions it has.