Our need to connect with others is as basic as our need for food and water.
It is essential to our survival.
Is it possible in times of instant connectivity, like we experience now, we are losing the very thing we are wired to crave, an intimate connection with the significant people in our lives?
From the moment we rise in the morning we are checking our text messages and desktop calendars to chart our day. Seven steps from our bed we arrive at virtual offices where we connect through web-based meetings.
We record our day on stories broadcasted to the world through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Snap Chat. When we venture out, our phone guides us through unknown destinations and back home again.
At the end of the day we sit around a dinner table, heads bowed to the technology god still glued to our hand.
This world-wide connectedness comes at a high price. It is robbing us of the very thing we seek- intimacy, and ironically, creating a greater longing for real connection. We’ve replaced business meetings, with Skype calls. Meeting for coffee to catch up with a good friend is frequently whittled down to a few lines of text or email.
We have traded in the bubbly laughter and the warm embrace of a hug with a family member, friend or colleague, for the hard-cased mobile device of the moment.
We know that infants stop their growth and development unless they experience the touch and closeness of another human being. Our need for connection never goes away.
However, research is proving the more technology increases the less human interaction we truly undertake. Hours we used together sharing dreams and aspirations we now spend inside chatrooms devoid of real connection.
Dinner conversations are punctuated with instant messages that quickly divert our attention and send us tumbling down a rabbit hole of pseudo immediacy.
We are slowly baited into believing the lives we read in perfectly crafted Facebook posts are real. As a result, we are feeling less sure about our own lives.
We are gradually pulling away from what really matters. We spend too much time disconnecting from the real world in order to maintain the perception of being connected on-line.
It is not uncommon to see a family out for an evening dinner together each consumed in their own little social sphere on a hand-held device.
Together, but worlds apart.
What they really hunger for cannot be delivered by their menu choice.
Psychologists claim increasing numbers of people in long-term partnerships are having to compete with their partner’s smartphone for attention making it the ‘third wheel’ in their relationship.
Researchers in this study surveyed 143 women in their study of “technoference”, a term created to describe “everyday intrusions and interruptions in couple interactions that take place due to the technology devices and their always-on and ever-present nature”.
Key findings in this study included:
• 62% said technology interferes with their leisure time together.
• 40% said their partner gets distracted by the TV during a conversation.
• 35% said their partner will pull out his phone if he receives a notification even if they are in the middle of a conversation.
• 33% said their partner checks his phone during mealtimes that they spend together.
• 25% said their partner actively texts other people during the couple’s face-to-face conversations.
While responding to our technology has become second nature, an almost unconscious reflex for some, reaching for the phone and ignoring the people around you sends the message “you are less important”.
A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found the modern family has evolved to include adult caretakers, a child and a relatively new , but ever present family member – a mobile device. Not surprisingly, researchers observed a marked lack of engagement with the children present when an adult had a mobile device.
What is the future cost of not being present now with our children?
I love my technology. I’m as plugged in and wired as the next person. But I had a huge wake-up call when my granddaughter announced that all mommy did was look at her phone all day. While I know that isn’t the truth, it made me think about what frequent phone interaction looks like from her sever-year-old perspective.
I now put my phone on “time out” when the family is present and try not to pick it up unless it is an important business call or a call from an absent family member.
It’s been a difficult decision. It required taking an honest look at my own use of technology and determining whether or not it was furthering my connections or detracting from my relationships within my family.
These are the areas I examined; I challenge you to take a look:
• Is technology use creating a challenge for my primary relationships?
• If so, what is using technology giving me? (Take a good look at what your tell yourself. Is it true that technology is really giving you this? )
• How is my family or my spouse/partner viewing my use of technology? Is my use of technology masking a deeper problem that needs to be addressed within the relationship?
• Am I using technology to meet one of my Six Human Needs? Which ones? How would my life be even more enriched if I allowed my husband, not the use of technology, to meet this need instead?
Mobile devices have set up an illusion of connection. While we may be continually in touch, increasingly we are becoming emotionally disconnected.
MIT’s Sherry Turkle suggested, technology tools over the last 15 years have begun to shape us and our connection with others, so that we now “expect more from technology and less from each other.”
While I agree this is happening, it’s up to us how we connect. We live by choice or default. Which will you choose?