I was at dinner at a restaurant with my family a few weekends ago and noticed a few tables around us throughout our meal. There was one in particular that caught my attention.
I noticed that the two people were on their phones THE WHOLE TIME! They looked up to order their food but then stayed glued to their phones for the rest of the meal. There was minimal conversation between them. It made me think of the people in the movie Wall-E that only had interactions through electronics.
Their interaction reminded me of an article by Sue Johnson: How Gadgets Ruin Relationships and Corrupt Emotions. In this article, she states “Even as technology helps us understand how relational we truly are, the basic currency of social connection — face-to-face contact and simple conversation — is becoming marginalized.” I saw this play out right in front of me!
I’m not sure why they weren’t interacting more but from someone looking in, it looked as though they weren’t close because of the limited interactions. This whole observation had me start thinking about how technology helps connect us or disconnect us.
With the continuous advancements in technology, our world has expanded and we have new options for interacting with others. I’ll feel old after this sentence but, in my childhood days, I had only a landline (not even a cordless phone) and dial up internet. If I wanted to talk to someone, I had to call them, write a letter, pass a note in school, and make plans in advance.
Yes, there were internet chat rooms but this wasn’t a popular form of communication. Then came pagers. Later, cell phones and Myspace happened and social media began to expand.
Initially, this was exciting because I could reach out and contact friends instantly, whether it was through calling them on their cell phone, paging them a fun message on their pager, sending a Myspace post or email. The days of passing notes in class were gone!
Today, there are all kinds of apps and programs for communication. There’s a lot of texting occurring, more so than phone calls to one another.
There are also programs like Snapchat, Vine, Kik, FaceBook messenger (to name a few) that allow us to send messages to numerous people at one time if we have an iPod or tablet connected to WiFi. There are also other communication outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (bye Myspace!!) that allow people to communicate via their feeds or pages.
It’s helpful to see what’s happening in others’ worlds or send nice/funny messages. It’s also helpful to create a get together or virtual meeting. At a previous job, I was so excited for the virtual meetings because I could attend from my living room, cuddling with my puppy and in comfy clothes.
Advancements allow us to connect with an entire world, not just the local community. We’re creating new connections in ways that weren’t previously accessible.
A problem with these advancements is that texting and emailing are replacing conversations. I have couples that the majority of their conversations are via text message. This is difficult because it’s hard to interpret written messages from text or emails.
It’s also impossible to know how the other person is feeling at the time of receiving written communication. This can lead to miscommunication and increased disconnection. Please, make a phone call and avoid this type of miscommunication when the topic is anything with a negative emotional foundation!!
These types of communication are ok if it’s a quick update like “Please pick up milk when you go to the store” or “Dentist appointment scheduled for the kids for Friday at 9 am.”
If you’re worried about how the message will be interpreted, it’s not appropriate for a text or email. Even if you proofread, have a second opinion, that worry is active for a reason. Please call instead of written messages! Leaving a voicemail or talking with the person will be much more effective.
Written messages last forever and are quick to be placed in text, email or social media because it’s not face-to-face. This delay seems to have decreased our mindfulness and effectiveness in communication.
I encourage couples to have time without electronics so that they can connect without distractions. It seems like a simple step but I see a lot of clients that don’t follow this and are struggling with disconnection and/or conflict.
If you’re at work or school, have a face to face conversation with a teacher or supervisor instead of emailing (if possible). Say “Hi” to people and smile. Maybe even give a compliment. These are equivalents to liking something on social media.
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This post was written by Minon Maier – LMFT