Most of you will know intuitively the types of problems that technology can cause in relationships. Your own experience has taught you this.
My experience with clients proves this also, and scientific research studies also confirm that technology has as many downsides as upsides when it comes to relationships.
Feeling Connected or Neglected?
Smartphones and other portable devices often get in the way of face-to-face, meaningful interactions. How many times have you been sitting with someone, and then in the middle of conversation, they start using their cell phone for something?
Perhaps the email, text or phone call they just got is more important than you? Perhaps the job/career that is beckoning on the smartphone is more important than you? We have all felt this way.
And perhaps you have even fallen into the same trap yourself, and made other people feel that way when they are sitting with you. My husband called me on it the other day. It happens.
Even though we are sitting across from each other, technology enables the interruptions and attention to other priorities that prevents us from really being present. The body is present but the mind goes elsewhere, so it is difficult to feel real connection.
The iPhone Effect
Research studies show that smartphones actually change the interpersonal connection process (often referred to as the iPhone effect).
A famous 2014 study at Virginia Tech found that the mere presence of a smartphone made partners less likely to talk about their feelings.
The mere presence of a smartphone made connections less meaningful, and partners were less understanding of each other.
But here’s the kicker…
These negative consequences occurred even if the phone was not actually in use, but just sitting as an object in the background!
Does Your Partner Have Secrets?
Ever wonder what your partner is spending so much time doing on his or her phone?
The phone provides a private portal to private conversations and private activities. Passwords on phones send a message that there is something private to be kept hidden. Secrets.
Partners have always been able to keep secrets from each other, but the technology makes it so much easier, more tempting, and more prevalent. Even if no secrets are actually being kept, the phone itself and our phone habits present new worries about the possibility.
Here’s a common scenario I see with my clients:
Partner #2 finds out about this and asks questions.
Partner #1 says this is an “innocent and appropriate friendship.”
But this “innocent” friendship starts to interfere in the partners’ relationship.
Partner #2 wonders about the appropriateness of the friendship.
Partner #1 starts to hide or delete text messages. Secrets.
Hiding often turns into lies. All of this leads to trust issues, and arguments.
If this is just an appropriate friendship, then why does Partner #1 continue with hiding, deleting texts, putting passwords on their phone? Because technology makes it so easy to do so.
Before the popularity of smartphones, Partner #1 would have had to make a phone call or setup a meeting with the “friend.” Often, these steps probably would not have been taken. But the smartphone makes it so easy.
And the line between appropriate and inappropriate friendships can get very blurry.
The availability of that instant connection with someone else also makes it easier to have an emotional affair . It can even help facilitate logistics for a sexual affair. Obviously, technology does not cause these things, but it is being used as a tool to make these things more accessible and easier and therefore more prevalent.
Technology and the internet at your fingertips, has also created the phenomenon called sexting, and increased the accessibility and prevalence of pornography.
All of these things affect the dynamics and communication within a relationship. Technology has created some new problems within relationships.
This makes it more important than ever for couples to connect and communicate face-to-face, and to talk about how technology may be impacting their lives and their relationship.