Being in a relationship in the 21st century means that technology plays a factor your relationship whether you want it to or not. There has been a lot of debate over whether technology brings us closer together or drives us apart, and honestly, it really depends on the situation. Our generation has been exposed to a whole new form of socialization, and since it has been around for most of our lives we are more accustomed to it than anyone else. Whether you are in a long distance relationship or in the same room right at this minute, your phone is affecting your relationship in ways you may not even be aware of.
If you are involved in a long distance relationship, technology will be the main source of communication between you and your significant other. Skype, texting, phone calls and even Snapchat can all help you feel closer to your partner. This is definitely a plus, and a huge step up from what was available to couples 20 years ago, but it still has its drawbacks. Nonverbal communication lacks the emotion you get while having a face to face conversation. This can lead to miscommunication and eventually could create conflict. When you’re reading a text, you can’t pick up on the tone or any other subtle clues that allow you to gauge the person’s intent or feelings. This makes it pretty easy to take things the wrong way.
Texting can also make people more confrontational because they can hide behind their phones. It can be easier to say whatever you want when you don’t have to deal with the consequences in person.
According to Dr. Alex Lickerman, a former Director of Primary Care at the University of Chicago, “Our ‘emotional invisibility’ on the Internet perhaps also explains so much of the vitriol we see on so many websites. People clearly have a penchant for saying things in the electronic world they'd never say to people in person because the person to whom they're saying it isn't physically present to display their emotional reaction.”
Even couples who are physically together can feel the effects of technology. Being on your phone can take away time with your significant other, as well as cause an array of other problems. Social media and technology has created all new “rules” and etiquette to be aware of, such as texting back within a timely manner. Breaking these rules can cause issues within relationships that never used to exist.
Despite the drawbacks, there are still benefits to technology. It allows you to stay more connected to your partner than ever before. It can also help relationships develop deeper and more quickly since there is more time to talk and get to know one another. “Our findings are very clear and consistent, that users of social networks tend to have more close relationships, not just online, but in real life,” Dr. Keith Hampton, a communications professor at Rutgers University says.
So how can you stop technology from hurting your relationship? When together, try to reserve some phone-free time that can allow you to spend time together without the distraction of a cell phone. When apart, don’t say anything over text that you wouldn’t say in person. If you feel like you are misunderstanding a text, don’t get angry and instead ask your partner to clarify. If you feel like you are about to fight, step back and think about what you want to say, or think about calling the person so you can at least hear the emotion in their voice.
Technology can be an amazing tool if you use it correctly. Just be sure to take your partner’s feelings into consideration and treat them the same way you would in person.
Melissa Scrivani is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.