Technology and Relationships

By Bridgette Mabuto

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How much can a digital relationship replace a real one?

The constant advancements of technology has made keeping in touch much easier than it was 50 years ago. It’s easier to keep up to date with friends, family, and what’s happening across the world. Still, with all the good that comes from technology, many of people feel it’s at the cost of other, just as important, things. While keeping in touch may be easier, having actual relationships seems to have become harder. These days so much communicating is done through emails, comments, likes, shares, tweets, and follows, that we can feel like we’re having relationships when we’re really not.

If you’ve ever wondered whether your dependence on technology is hurting your relationships or if the amount of time your loved ones are spending on their phones or tablets is excessive, you’re not alone. A study done by Informate Mobile Intelligence found that American adults spend an average of 4.7 hours a day on their phones. If we assume eight hours of sleep per night, that 4.7 hours equals about 30% of a persons’ waking day. And that’s just their phones. How about their laptops? So it’s no wonder that, just like you, researchers and scientists are interested in knowing how this is changing interpersonal relationships. While these studies are still pretty new and many are ongoing, here are a few things most people agree on.

1. Technology Skews Communication

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Online communication is radically different from real-world interactions.

Emotions and intentions have a way of being flattened when it comes to communication through technology. If you’re texting or chatting with someone, especially someone you don’t know well personally, it can be hard to tell if they’re being sarcastic, sincere, caring, or mocking, and this often causes people to take offence, get angry or hurt. Without inflection and body language, it’s extremely difficult to tell what someone really means. Over the years people have learned to adjust the way they communicate accordingly, including the use of emoticons.

The new problem comes when people are so used to speaking through technology that the technology-based communication enters their daily face-to-face communication. This can lead to a shallowness in everyday interactions that can hurt relationships.

2. Technology Changes Relationship Patterns

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Finding love can be as simple as sending an email.

If you’ve ever watched the show Catfish, you know that people feel much more comfortable opening up to others online. It’s safe. It’s kind of like dating with a blindfold. You can present yourself as the way you’d like to be instead of the way you are, or you can use technology to find others that are more accepting of them. No matter which situation, the result is the same. When people feel more comfortable, they open up more and connect faster.

Because of this, technology has really sped up the relationship process. People can go from complete strangers to falling in love in a few weeks. Two decades ago, this was definitely not the norm. While this has a negative side (the person you’re pouring your heart out to and falling in love with may not be legit, for example), it can also be beautiful. More and more people are finding love online and creating healthy, long-lasting relationships.

3. Technology Connects People

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No matter your interests, you can be certain there is an online community that caters to them.

Twenty years ago, if your hobby was making crochet mittens for pigs, for example, you would probably have been branded as a weirdo and forced to enjoy your hobby in secret. These days, no matter what you enjoy doing, you can probably find many people who enjoy the exact same thing. And just like that, online communities are created.

This brings a whole new power to social movements. Minority groups used to find it hard to connect across wide geographic regions, support each other, and lift their communities up. Now rallies can be planned on Twitter, information is shared in an instant, and support is offered from people right across the globe. This has been especially huge for the African-American and LGBTQ communities.

While technology is definitely changing how people related to each other, not all of it is negative. As long as you’re aware of how much you use it, technology can be great! And, if you’re tired of being ignored while everyone texts at the table, just create a no-phone rule. Simple!

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