How technology can help or hurt relationships

Courtesy of Pexels, Thirdman

Source: Courtesy of Pexels, Thirdman

We live in a digital world; there is no escaping it. Being constantly plugged in affects our relationships in a number of ways. On the one hand, it allows us to stay connected to social networks – but on the other hand, it allows us to disconnect from the moment and relationships in real time.

Research on “Technoference”

Researchers Brandon McDaniel and Sarah Coyne coined the term technical meeting, which describes situations where technology interferes with couples interacting or spending time together. A study they published in 2016 found that participants believed technological devices would affect their relationships. Those who reported more technology distractions in their relationships also reported greater conflict over technology use, lower relationship satisfaction, more depressive symptoms, and lower life satisfaction.

An important distinction is that between the technologies used to facilitate bonding between members of a couple and those that impede those interactions. This is important because other studies have shown that texting, for example, can keep partners connected during the day.

With regard to SMS, Jonathan Pettigrew’s (2009) research describes the technology as having both “push” and “pull” aspects. The impetus is technology enabling people to interact with each other in environments that would otherwise be difficult or impossible (i.e. movie theaters). However, technology does pull a person into different environments, thereby taking them out of their immediate environment and potentially face-to-face interactions. In this regard, people may not be fully present.

How couples are using technology in their everyday lives

Consider two couples: Amy and Sean, and Dan and Nina.

Amy and Sean texted throughout the day to share that they were thinking of each other. Sometimes they text reminders, such as about items to add to the grocery list or about picking up dry cleaning. However, most of their communication centers on their bond as a couple. When at home, they make sure to have a tech-free dinner so they can discuss their day.

Dan and Nina, on the other hand, usually use technology as a means of escape. They are so busy working during the day that they don’t actually use their phones. They tend to pick them up at the dinner table or while watching TV together in the evening to catch up on emails or check social media.

The first couple, Amy and Sean, are using technology to connect, while Dan and Nina use it as an escape. Sure, they may not be avoiding each other on purpose, but the pull of email and social media is pulling them out of their current relationship.

While social media can be a great way for us to connect with people we haven’t seen in a while and keep in touch with family, colleagues and friends, it can also have some downsides, especially in our romantic lives. Be aware of how you use social media, including how much time you spend on social media and how you choose to use it to interact with your partner.

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