How Technology Affects Relationships

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He has had a tough day at work and can hardly lie still in bed. His girlfriend seems distant from him, but close to the phone light which shines on her pale face. At the same time that she is seems distant to the person right next to her shoulders, she is feeling close her friend, who lives far across the ocean.

Technology and relationships

Today, these common scenarios are made possible by technological improvements and the internet, which are accessible in almost every corner of the world.

Throughout this article I will walk through some of the most crucial changes, mostly the side effects that this rapid and advanced technological development has brought to communication, hence in various ways deeply affecting the relationships that people have with their surroundings, such as: family, partner, friends and professional alignments as well.

Since the very beginning of time, people have found ways to communicate. The languages and forms of communication that we know today began after sounds, symbols, drawing and acting played an important role in ensuring and maintaining human interactions.

Anxiety and the overuse of internet

Nowadays, instead of walking kilometres to mail a post card and waiting for days for a response, or instead of waiting on a pay phone line while we count the money we have left, you can talk to those far away more easily and more cheaply than ever before. Undoubtedly, all of this ease of communication has come at a cost.

This cost has been demonstrated by several studies (see below) that have shown a linkage between social isolation (anxiety, depression, stress) and the overuse of internet technology.  While correlation does not necessary prove cause, still the relation between these two is worth taking seriously.

Social media bring social isolation?

Sometimes the way we use technology can cause stress and disrupt intimate relationships, usually because it is hard to find the right balance of the time spent on one’s personal life and internet usage, hence when the last takes over we might face some disturbing statistics, such as the following:

A study published this September in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that teenagers who spend more than three hours per day on social media have higher chances of developing mental health issues, including aggression, antisocial behaviour and depression.

Another study (2017) has compared the social media use of more than 1,700 people between the ages of 19 and 32 in the U.S. The researchers found that those people with high social media use felt more socially isolated compared to those who spent less time on social media.

When adolescents have limited access to the Internet, they can suffer a form of withdrawal as well as becoming unable to function normally without regular online contact. A team of Australian researchers (2016) has also linked compulsive Internet use to a range of mental health concerns including low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, social phobia, and even suicidal thoughts.

Trends are here to stay, and most probably tackling it will not prove to be an easy task

“The Effect of Technology on Face-to-Face Communication” is the title of a research project conducted by Emily Drago (2015), the findings of which suggest that technology has a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication. Despite individuals’ awareness of the decrease, a University of Michigan study (2013) has found that Facebook use can lead to a decrease in happiness and overall life satisfaction.

A Leeds University study (2010) has found that people classified as internet addicts are more likely to be depressed than non-addicted users. This study suggests a strong link between heavy internet use and depression.

The abovementioned studies were conducted over a period of years and were selected to illustrate that these trends are here to stay and are no longer just trends, but have become a continuing situation that we had best cope with.

We shall bear in mind that technology use/overuse and hence its impact differs deeply between generations, and most probably tackling it will not prove to be an easy task.

In most countries, there are now a large number of addiction centres and hotlines offering different therapies and programmes to treat internet addiction, social media addiction, teen social media addiction,video game addiction, et cetera.

While we all agree on the positive impact of technology in our lives to the degree that it keeps us close to the people we appreciate and updates us with the latest trends and in the things that we are interested in, still on the other hand we must also recognise that if this very technology is making us feel depressed or anxious, or it is negatively interfering with our social interactions, then it is time to limit or try cutting it off to see if there is any improvement.

Photo: Shutterstock

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