When was the last time you assessed the impact of technology in your life?
My mum is 95 years old and has never been good with technology. She has never driven a car, never watched a video, never sent a text or opened a website, never held a smart phone or even know what an app is. All she knows is to turn on the TV and to push the red button on her landline phone to call someone. She belongs to an older generation.
Compare her to my 3-year-old grandson, who is always asking for his Dad’s iphone and can swipe through photos, go to you tube and find his favourite videos, enjoys FaceTime with us and knows how to say goodbye and turn us off!
The planet has never been more interconnected. And yet, this interconnectedness, while wonderful, hasn’t come without cost. My son in law recently was telling me about his ride home from college on the train. He said, ‘without exception everyone on the train had their ear phones in, listening to music, playing a game or working on their smart phones’ – no one was talking to another person on the train even though it was full.
How many times do we see people out for a meal in a restaurant, a father and son, a couple or young people, all talking on their phones or flipping through social media to find something of interest. All living in their virtual world when right across from them is someone in the real world, in the flesh!
Alex Lickerman M.D shares in his blog, ‘As long as we expect no more from these online relationships than they can give, no good reason exists why we can’t enjoy the power of social media sites to connect us efficiently to people we’d otherwise not touch. The problem, however, comes when we find ourselves subtly substituting electronic relationships for physical ones or mistaking our electronic relationships for physical ones. We may feel we’re connecting effectively with others via the Internet, but too much electronic-relating paradoxically engenders a sense of social isolation.’
We are living with a new addiction across the world – an addiction to technology – that creates a virtual world with virtual friends with a virtual image that is perhaps a better version of the real us. The virtual world is easier to manage and change and requires no commitment, other than to respond with likes and acceptances. The question is – what is this doing to our relationships in real time? How many friends do we really have? Who is really caring for us?
I have just finished staffing an LDC in California with a very refreshing atmosphere. It definitely helped us, that the internet wasn’t very good! As a staff, we sat in our living room most nights enjoying conversation and having a good laugh together. We enjoyed real community and found that we got to know one another so well.
I have to think back to what we did before we had iPhones and Netflix and multiscreen cinemas, and a world geared up for entertainment. Well, we spent meaningful time together in conversation, learning together, playing together, developing new hobbies, enjoying creation and a host of other things that were engaging real people in the real world.
Simon Sinek argues that ‘this social media has become a societal addiction and the main reason for poor self-esteem and shallow relationships.’
The average parent will post almost 1,000 photos of their child online before he or she turns five, according to a 2015 survey of 2,000 parents by The Parent Zone. I wonder if seeing pictures all the time gives a feeling of seeing them more than you actually do??
A 2014 study—”The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices”—looked at the effects that phones have when people talk face-to-face. Observing 100 friendly couples having a 10-minute conversation while their phone was present, researchers noticed that the individuals still continued to fiddle with their phones. When those same couples conversed without a phone present, their conversations resulted in greater empathy.
Let’s look at the opposite opinion for a few minutes: Are these devices bringing us closer together or further apart? The answer may depend on which decade you were born in. “Boomers and Gen-Xers may look at young people staring at their devices and think they’re being antisocial, but who is to say we’re right and they’re wrong? They’re just socializing differently,” says Robert Weiss, a counselor in Los Angeles
“Our findings are very clear and consistent, that users of social networks tend to have more close relationships, not just online, but in real life,” says Keith Hampton, PhD, an associate professor of communication and public policy communication at Rutgers University.
Facebook users also scored higher than non-users in measures of social support. They had more friends who were willing and able to offer advice, companionship, and physical help. Hampton adds ‘digital technology provides a platform to ask for that help quickly.’
Technology helps relationships last over time and distance. For friends who can’t always meet in person, technology helps them stay connected. In the pre-digital days, Hampton explains, ‘if you moved out of town for a new job or switched schools, it was a real challenge to stay in touch, no matter how close you were. (However the tendency can now be to stay connected back there and not bond in the new location!)
“You don’t let relationships go dormant,” he says.
“In analog days, you were limited to whoever was around you and which organizations were nearby, but now you can access a community based on beliefs, interests, and shared goals.”
It creates communities: “Before the industrial revolution, you lived in communities with your grandparents and aunts and cousins all next door,” Weiss says. Now because of work and education and movement, families may be more spread out, so people flock to communities online, Hampton says.
It’s not all smiley-face emojis, however. What other people post makes 21% of teens feel worse about their lives. Pressure compels 40% to post only things that make them look good to others. Think too of the pressure that technology brings – we are now expected to respond just about immediately, or we receive another email asking – did you receive my message, here it is again just in case it went into trash?
Chris Morris reports on CNBC.com: John (not his real name) used to look forward to the evenings—the times when he and his wife would catch up, watch some television and mutually unwind from the day. That was five years ago. Today, he says, the two spend more evenings staring at their phones than they do at each other. And though it frustrates him to no end, he has accepted it as the new normal. “Between the time we spend on Facebook, Twitter and Words With Friends, I feel like we sacrifice the time we used to use to bond—but it’s not like either of us is willing to give up those things,” he said.
Precisely because electronic media transmit emotion so poorly compared to in-person interaction, many view it as the perfect way to send difficult messages: it blocks us from registering the negative emotional responses such messages engender, which provides us the illusion we’re not really doing harm. Unfortunately, this also usually means we don’t transmit these messages with as much empathy, and often find ourselves sending a different message than we intended and breeding more confusion than we realize.
For transferring information efficiently, the Internet is excellent. For transacting emotionally sensitive or satisfying connections, it’s not.
People tend to delay answering emails when it requires thought or when they want to avoid responsibility the email demands. But this is like being asked a question in person and rather than responding, “I don’t know” or “I’ll have to think about it,” just turning your head and walking away in silence.
People have a tendency to say things in the electronic world they’d never say to people in person because the person to whom they’re saying it isn’t physically present to display their emotional reaction. The truth is – relationships are affected by online communication.
Don’t get me wrong – I love technology – I love my Day One journal; my Trello for organisation; my Slack for communication; my Doodle for setting up meetings; my Calendar, Reminders, Weather, Bible, FaceTime, Messenger and Email, my Mail chimp for newsletters and in a limited way Facebook;
BUT they are not my life. When I am in a seminar or school, spending time with friends and family, the emails can tend to pile up, I get behind in catching up on Instagram and the like, but I am committed to real relationships during those times and the calls of technology have to go unanswered. However, I still have a goal of responding to important messages within 48 hours. The issue is what we make priority!
- Couples, keep your phone/ipad use out of the bedroom
- When meeting friends or playing with kids, put your phone on silent or airplane mode
- Have unplugged meal times
- Create boundaries around your kids’ online time
- Create boundaries around our own online time – prioritise time with friends and family over time on the internet!
- Recognise you could have an addiction if you reach for your phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night (and countless times during the day) – cut down your screen time – now that you can see it charted out.
- Keep your phone off the table in meetings and turned to silent mode
- Schedule some unplugged days (you don’t know how addicted you are until you do this). For you millennials and Xgens, it will give you a taste of how I grew up! You may be surprised how much extra time you have!
Until next month