Power Off Your Phone and Power Up Your Relationships
It’s true that everyone's lives these days are fueled and enhanced by technology. How often have you stepped on a bus, been out at a restaurant, or have been sitting in your own home, only to look around and notice that everyone around you is staring down into the screen of a phone?
One of the most interesting aspects of technology is that we can simultaneously use it to both connect and to disconnect.
You may notice that by texting your partner in the middle of a hard-work day, you’re able to get that instant validation. It feels good! Perhaps, in that same scenario you play a quick game of Candy Crush to distract yourself from the mounting stress and pressure. This also feels good! You might then ask what’s the problem? This is clearly a tool to meet many needs at once.
Here’s the thing: oftentimes, unchecked technology use can prevent us from connecting with each other… and ourselves.
Imagine (or maybe you don’t have to imagine — because you’re actually doing this right now) you’re sitting on the couch next to your partner, as they’re scrolling through various social media accounts, playing games, etc. Is this someone you feel connected to? No, of course not.
Our phones can create a physical and emotional barrier. While we may be striving for connection through texting, checking Facebook, or sending an email, we are quite possibly ignoring our most important relationships and the greatest opportunities for connection as we do so.
It’s also possible that through the distraction of social media (or whatever your technological vice may be), you are able to disconnect from your own internal process, so you don’t have to deal. First, we all do it and, let’s face it, sometimes a little distraction is necessary.
However, you may find that the more time you spend looking through pictures of everyone else’s “perfect” lives or tuning out those pesky emotions through virtual realities, the worse you feel. Why? Because in the minutes or hours you spent immersed in technology, you actually lost connection with those moments and — quite possibly — with yourself.
Here are two tips to help you manage your technology use so that it doesn’t interfere with your most important connections:
- First, acknowledge and notice what impact technology is having on your connections. (It looks different for everyone). Remember, the instant gratification that is often associated with technology is not always better. After all, it can leave us just as quickly. Challenge yourself to remember that the “connection” you experience from viewing other people’s lives through the picture-perfect lens of social media skews reality.
- Secondly, set reasonable boundaries for yourself or household around technology use. For example, creating “no phone zones” like at the dinner table, or in bed will allow you to connect with your partner. Also having setting aside specific screen-free times of day to check-in with your partner can drastically improve your connection.
Actively make a choice to engage and connect with those around you…you have the power! Once you are able to peel your eyes away from that friendly glow, you may just find there’s another human right in front of you or better yet, you may even find yourself.
All the best,
Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFT-C