In some ways, we have never been more interconnected as a species. Along with the advent of mobile phones, platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, email and Instagram (and scores of others) have allowed us to keep in constant contact with those who matter the most. And yet, while admittedly not just convenient but wonderful, this interconnectivity hasn’t come without a cost.
A quick perusal of the internet will find dozens of articles lamenting our dependence on technology and how it is negatively affecting our relationships. But is this truly the case? Or is technology simply changing the way we interact and altering the nature of how we communicate with each other?
Intimacy and Our Partners
A 2014 Pew Research Center poll found that around one in four cell phone owners in a marriage or intimate relationship felt that their partner is too distracted by their phone when they spend time together – and the situation has gotten arguably worse in the five years since. If truth be told, an overreliance on our mobile phones is probably something we are all guilty of. However, it’s also true that technology helps bring people together, and an increasing number of people are meeting their future partners through online gaming and social media sites. For the most part, technology is a necessary evil and is simply another hurdle to overcome within a relationship; couples need to be adaptable in order to ensure their relationships survives through the toughest of times, no matter what the problem is.
There is an important distinction to be made here between real life friends that you also keep in contact with via social media and those who you exclusively interact with online. With the former, there is an argument to be made that you may end up speaking less and substitute this with the liking the occasional tweet or Facebook post. However, technology and online video gaming in particular has been known to create strong, meaningful friendships among people who have never met face to face. Popular games such as poker have found new homes online but haven’t been fully embraced by some who fear that the move will jeopardize the social lives they enjoy down at their local casino. However, most legit and licensed only websites now come equipped with chat rooms, which enables online players to form long-lasting bonds with other players and converse in-game. From this point of view, technology can be used to form new connections and will only damage your current friendships if you allow it to do so.
A Different Set of Skills?
There’s little doubt that technology has changed the way we communicate with each other. In an online setting, replies to personal emails, texts and other messages can be ignored or delayed if necessary. However, the immediacy of a face-to-face conversation demands that we constantly interact with the other participant, whether this is verbally or non verbally. The pertinent question therefore remains, are we damaging our social skills by spending more time online? There have been a number of studies on the subject in the last few years, and it appears that while the answer to the question is yes, we aren’t yet sure to what extent.
Ultimately, technology is our friend and can be hugely beneficial if used properly. However, as the Spice Girls once sang, “too much of something is bad enough”, and there’s no doubt that technology can have an adverse impact on our relationships if we become obsessed with our laptops or mobile devices. In order to find the right balance, we need to be adaptable and see technology as simply another tool to help make our lives that little bit easier. At the end of the day, humans are social creatures and nothing can replace the feeling of joy you get when seeing a loved one smile or the sound of a spouse’s laugh. Especially not the ping of a Facebook Messenger notification.