We are living in an increasingly tech-focused world with instant access to anyone and everything. While incredibly helpful in keeping us connected and able to work on-the-go (and maintain an organized, if hectic, daily life) this 24/7 access has made face-to-face human interaction an oddity. Fortunately, for better or worse, we are biologically hard-wired to want and need physical contact and communication with those to whom we are emotionally attached. However, when our attention gets caught up in gadgets and the instant gratification of online everything, even the strongest of relationships can suffer.
Social networking, smartphones, e-watches and 24/7 internet are here to stay, so the question is: how do we take advantage of technology without allowing it to overtake our real-life relationships with our families, friends and partners? In a recent survey, 70% of those asked reported that face-to-face interactions were regularly interrupted by a partner using their phone to talk or text.
Haven’t we all been here recently? Finding a healthy balance is imperative for our relationships AND can feel challenging.
Here are 7 tips to help you balance your relationships in a tech-driven world:
1. If you are not using your gadgets, put them away
There is no reason to turn your coffee table, or even worse, your bedside table, into your mini-version of the Apple store. Your smart phone, iPad, iPod or laptop can all be nicely tucked into a drawer when not in use. In an interesting study done in 2014 by Virginia Tech psychologist Shalini Misra, researchers found that just having an iPhone on the table made partners less likely to disclose deeper feelings and less understanding of the other’s experience.
2. Try single-tasking
Asking someone to stop multitasking may be asking a little too much in our fast-paced 24/7 culture. Try single-tasking at least three activities per day. You may notice that you are more present in your relationships or even in your own mind. Start simple by turning off the TV and hiding your phone while eating dinner. You may be surprised by how much of an impact that focused attention can have on those around you.
3. Challenge yourself not to be available 24/7
If your phone rings, vibrates with a text message, chimes letting you know that a friend has posted to Instagram, or buzzes with comments on Facebook…so what? These things can wait. Be present when you are with your loved ones and experiment with limiting your social media time to once per day for a set period…maybe 30 minutes first thing in the morning to help you wake up.
4. Create pre-written text messages
Instead of taking attention away from your relationship by sending tedious-explanatory text messages, create ones that let people know that you are unavailable. Such as:
– “With my family, can I call you later?”
– “I will get back to you tomorrow during regular work hours.”
– “Can’t talk now, I’ll message you when I’m available.”
5. Minimize electronics in the bedroom
You may have a habit of sitting in bed with your laptop open, reading on your iPad or browsing on your smart phone. The stimulation from your e-devices may be distracting from a potential moment of connection or intimacy with your partner and may also prevent your mind from unwinding, hindering a night of restful sleep. Do not let technology become a third party in your relationship. Treat your bedroom like an oasis, not like an arcade.
6. Ask your loved ones to “call you out”
We’ve all witnessed a table of friends at a restaurant with their noses stuck in their phones. Texting, tweeting, and scrolling through your favorite app instead of having meaningful conversations and making memories. Make it a rule to keep your phone from making an appearance while catching up with friends and family, and ask your loved ones to do the same.
Not everyone will jump on board with this idea, but ask yourself and your friends: “do you want to have a tech-free night with me? Dinner and a movie without feeling inclined to post the perfect photo on Instagram?” Even if only one friend agrees, you will see that relationship grow.
7. Remember handwriting and a world without spellcheck?
Certain things require immediate correspondence, such as emailing to follow up with a job interview or texting a friend for a lunch invitation, but not everything needs immediate delivery. Take the time to pick up a pen and jot your thoughts down on paper. Let someone know what you admire about them. The recipient may be surprised and appreciate the time and effort you put into writing.
When you go “old school” with your messages you eliminate the chance of distraction from technology. You won’t find yourself knee-deep into a game of Candy Crush halfway through your heartfelt message.
Relationships require work and attention. Let those you love know that you care and put down your electronics, or at the very least make rules for yourself that allow you to be fully present on a regular basis.
For more couple, family and relationship guidance, contact The Clinic today!
Author: Britney Blair, Psy.D.