I think we’ve all been there...we’re in conversation and someone is pouring out their heart with emotion and passion and right when it gets to the most important part one person takes their eyes off the other and looks at something on their phone. What could be more insensitive than that, you might be thinking? Until the realization hits home…that person has been me.
You don’t have to live in our society too long to see the intense yet subtle battle going on all around us regarding our consumption of technology. If you talk to people, this consumption is one of those love/hate relationships within their life. “I can’t live without my phone,” many people have admitted to me, and in the same breath they express the conflict that arises in terms of the stress and distraction it produces. Well…if you happen to be one of those people that feel the struggle between the technology that is supposed to make your life easier, and your ongoing relationships, you are not alone. Believe me when I confess that James and I are in the same boat, as seen in our above text message that opened this blog post.
Senior researcher at the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland, Christina Leggett and Pieter J. Rossouw, a professor at the same university, conducted a study and found, “Engaging in technology separate to a partner while in the presence of them encourages a disconnection rather than a connection. Disconnection in relationships tends to lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and comprises an individual’s sense of safety, attachment and control.”
Another study published in February 2014, by Pew Research found that 25% of cell phone owners in a marriage or partnership have felt their spouse or partner was distracted by their cell phone when they were together. 8% of Internet users in a committed relationship have had an argument with their spouse or partner about the amount of time one of them was spending online.
It’s pretty obvious that the use of technology, especially hand held media, is increasing exponentially in our busy world. The important question becomes, what does that mean for our loves ones? If you are like me, I talk a good talk when it comes to telling others to put their cell phone down while engaging in face-to-face communication. But how many times have I been that insensitive techno-user and just HAD to answer that IMPORTANT text message at the same time my kids are asking me if it’s ok to watch TV before finishing their homework or eat that sugary snack they know I’d say, ABSOLUTELY NOT to if I were actually paying attention. YIKES! Did I just say yes to that? I utter to myself as I put my cell phone down on the counter of our kitchen.
So in other words, I struggle too; but I got to thinking as I did research for this post, wondering how would the above statistics read if we asked our children to respond? That piercing feeling of conviction hit me like a velvet hammer. If adults who have lived considerably longer on this earth feel disconnected when someone they are in relationship with is distracted by their cell phone, then how is this disconnected patterning truly effecting the foundation of how children communicate and relate to others--especially those in close relationship? According to many Neuropsychological studies, there just hasn’t been a great deal of conclusive data done to know for sure the impact technology is having on intrapersonal relationship, especially with the next generation of tech users.
The question then becomes, what CAN we do to push back against this divisive foe? As you can easily conclude from above, I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. What I can say with all honesty is that as I have become more aware and present in my relationships through our recent healing process, I value each face-to face moment more intensely than before. In other words, I’m not emotionally exhausted, or afraid to go beyond surface level conversations that often drove me to hide behind my cell phone when present with others in my past. Something for us all to think about…
The other thing that stood out in many of the articles written by professionals and researchers on this topic was, creating gadget free zones in your home. This is an obvious remedy for the busy mom mishap that I describe above. Let’s be honest, this is easier said than done, but what if we all tried it out? What if family time was just that…family time? What if we made the decision to put our phones away when we throw our keys in the little basket near the front door and just checked our email, text messages, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pintrest, Newsfeed, Facetime, and Twitter once in the evening before we turned out the lights…or…not at all.
I guess it’s safe to say we’d win the war, or at least one battle…