Relationships In The Digital Age
Technology has become a part of our everyday lives, which means in an average day, most of us will be connected to our devices, and as a 22-year-old college student, I can definitely relate! Throughout the day, we send text messages, respond to emails, or scroll through Instagram. Our phones, in particular, have become an integral part of our culture. They have changed, and are continuing to change, the ways in which we communicate with one another. As we are constantly using these devices, it is important to be aware of how they are affecting not only us, but our relationships with others.
Humans are social beings. Decades of research has emphasized the importance of humans engaging in positive social relationships. We thrive off of connection! Phones can help us do this, but they also change the ways we connect with each other. Researchers in a recently published study found that after participating in face-to-face interactions, participants felt better and more socially connected. This suggests that social media does not replace genuine face-to-face communication. To fully tend to our social needs, we must engage in face-to-face interactions. That being said, this same study found that digital communication was still better than no communication at all! So, while phones may not be the best way to engage in social interactions, they still act as decent alternatives.
With our rapidly advancing technology, we are able to communicate with virtually anyone, anywhere. No longer are we limited to face-to-face interaction. We can stay in touch with friends or communicate with family members anywhere in the world thanks to social media platforms and video calling. This helps us stay connected and can make the world seem a little bit smaller. Thanks to smartphones, the possibilities are endless for meeting new people, which can also make the world seem a whole lot bigger!
While there are some benefits, there are also some things we need to be aware of when it comes to our social reliance on technology. We can all probably relate to talking to someone only to realize they are just looking down at their phone. Phones can prohibit us from being fully present. This can make it more difficult for us to empathize and have genuine, sincere interactions. Even if we are not looking at our phones, they still may serve as distractions! A new experimental study found that participants who simply had phones on the table during social interactions had significantly lower interest and enjoyment in their interactions compared to those who did not. Even the mere presence of a cell phone can inhibit us from fully enjoying our interactions with one another.
Now, this is not to say that phones are helpful or harmful to our relationships, because I would say that the answer is both! Technology will continue to play an integral role in our daily interactions, so being aware of the implications can help us develop and maintain more positive social relationships. For tips on how to develop healthy habits with technology that support your personal and professional relationships, check out our Leadership Lesson!
Leadership is relational. Here are some suggestions on how to use your phone for good!
- Schedule in-person meetings. Email can be convenient, but try to schedule some time face-to-face. Pay attention to the things like non-verbal cues, that you may miss through a screen.
- Monitor your phone use. There are lots of apps that can help you do this!
- Put your phone away every now and then! When walking across campus, look-up rather than looking at your phone. Make eye contact; say hi to people.
- Use your phone to build your social network. Check-in on a friend, call a relative, talk with people you do not get to see very often!
*Meet the Author*
Caroline is a senior in college who loves dogs, the beach, sunshine, and traveling!