Our lives are absolutely saturated with technology, from the email inbox at work to the smartphone in your pocket, Netflix on every device imaginable, new levels to beat in your favorite video game…
It’s all too easy (and common) to get absorbed into this digital world, and it isn’t even always for entertainment or distraction. So many of our jobs, our hobbies, our communications with friends and family, are all hinged on these technological devices – so much of what we do is dependent on staring at the screen.
The problem, though, is that when we’re sucked into Facebook (no matter how important the conversation), or compulsively checking our phones for sports updates or new notifications, we tend to ignore the “real world” around us in favor of the digital world at our fingertips.
…And this is becoming a very real problem, not just for couples, but for all social relationships. Have you ever been sitting at dinner, and all around the table people are fidgeting with smartphones instead of talking to one another?
This is hardly an ideal way to spend time with others…
So, what can we do about these technological problems?
First, we have to recognize them as distractions! We have to make this distinction between our physical relationships and our online relationships. We’ve got to remember to put the people closest to us (physically and emotionally) first.
Second, replace some technological pastimes with something else – something more “real life” – at least in part. We’re not asking you to throw your phone out the window or to smash your television set, just recognize the fact that they are taking you away from the very real things happening around you!
Is there some community project you can work on instead of watching your evening TV show? A craft you could work on with the kids instead of playing a game on your phone? Instead of that conversation in your favorite online forum, have that conversation with your spouse…
The problem with being hyper-connected at every moment, to every corner of the world, is that we lose sight of those short-distance connections sitting right in front of us.
There are small steps we can take to break the cycle of techno-obsession though, like simply leaving your phone in the other room during dinner. For TV, try to stick to the shows you know you like and want to see, and cut out the aimless channel surfing.
Taking a few small steps to break the habits already formed will show you that you don’t actually need to check every time you get a Facebook notification. You don’t actually need to beat that next level – you just want to. The world doesn’t fall apart if you miss an episode or don’t check Twitter. Most of the behaviors that harm our in-person relationship aren’t exactly to blame on the technology, but rather the unchecked habits we form around using it.
Technology is here to stay. It’s a marvelous and important way to learn about the rest of the world, to stimulate our imaginations, to stay connected with people abroad, to meet people who share our interests… But we can’t allow it to take us away from the lives we actually live – in the real world, with real people that we can see and touch.
Strive to find a balance, and be honest with yourself about your own tech use. Are you ignoring your spouse? Are internet and technology at the center of some of the problems you struggle with? Acknowledge the bad habits we’re all tempted by, and rise above them to strengthen your marriage.