The growth in our use of technology has been exponential. It is easy to see how our increased use of devices has eliminated the separation, or at least blurred the lines, between our work, home and social lives. The interconnection of these different components of our existence make it more and more difficult to be present in the moment. Our ability to send a work email while cooking dinner at home, checking social media while at work, and texting our significant other during lunch with a friend, contribute to the state of absent presence. These common daily behaviors reflect the pervasiveness of technology, particularly the use of smartphones.
Since technology offers instant gratification, it can be difficult to resist the urge to be online at all times. Thus, the practice of phone-checking has become as natural and involuntary as yawning. In 2016, Apple found that its device users unlocked their phones 80 times every day. If we consider what we do at any given hour throughout the day, does phone-checking enhance or detract from what, or whom, is in front of us?
Technology has proven to expand our social lives, yet could it be constricting our private one? When was the last time you shared a meal with someone without your phone being within reach? Brandon McDaniel, a researcher in human development coined the term “technoference” as “everyday intrusions or interruption in couple interactions..that occur due to technology”. Since it has become so common for people to engage in phone-checking while out to dinner, the opportunity to connect face-to-face is limited and authentic engagement is fragmented. Thus the art of breaking bread together lacks fulfillment when a device is present.
Dr. John Gottman, famous marriage researcher states, “While communication issues have many causes, a common culprit in today’s world is the seemingly endless number of notifications from our digital devices. They have become a distraction from the real connection right in front of us”. Furthermore, it is in unstructured moments that partners, in particular, hold the potential for spontaneous conversation and laughter that help to build closeness and a sense of connection.
The benefits of authentic connection are endless, including the release of hormones which contribute to a boost in mood and can increase overall happiness. Does knowing that our constant phone checking compromise our relationships, and keep us from experiencing a natural mood boost enough to change our behavior? If not, consider setting limits for yourself and your significant other through a tech agreement that includes:
-expectations for use; an agreement that both partners will not text, check email, or update their social profiles during specific times of the day or particular events, such as date night, mealtime, or when either of you needs to talk.
-what kind of technological contact does each person consider appropriate?
-when is it OK to be anonymous online?
-rules for technology use in the car
-how much of your relationship are you OK with being shared on line?
Making such adjustments to behavior require effort and self-control, so remember to slow down, take time to reflect and support yourself and others in making these important decisions to be more connected …without the use of technology.