My wife and I were relaxing at home the other night when I looked over and realized that both of us were paying more attention to our cell phones and iPads than to each other. This doesn’t happen too much, but it really made me think.
“Look at us, what are we doing!?” I asked my wife. We were sitting right next to each other, yet we weren’t even speaking to each other.
We stopped what we were doing, set our devices aside and began a conversation. We had decided that whatever was happening on our electronics could wait.
The above scenario happens so many times a day across the world. Researchers have found that in this technology-driven society, we are no longer seeking out face-to-face or even just telephonic voice-to-voice communication. The convenience of the Internet and mobile devices has overtaken the need to engage in person.
Scientists are also telling us that the personal and societal implications of this development are damaging our social network. If we don’t try to connect with someone in a personal way, we will eventually lose the ability to become close and intimate with others.
Although technology has several benefits and connects us in some ways, many people are getting too attached and relying heavily on texting and social media as their primary means of communication. Despite the “social” in social media, people are becoming less personal than they used to be.
All of this got me thinking about some simple tips that have proven to help us better connect with our loved ones.
Practical Tips Proven to Help Us Be More Connected
While there are many benefits to electronic technology, the actual research is showing us that relying too heavily on texting and social media, in general, makes it easier to actually avoid relationships when we rely on it as our primary means of communication. It simply isn’t as personal as we want to believe it is.
And the result is that we are actually losing some of our vital ability to enjoy being emotionally intimate with one another.
All of this got me to thinking about some real-world, practical tips that have proven to help us be more truly connected with people we care about.
1. Create “Electronic Free Time”
Make an agreement with your partner to set aside some time to actually talk and listen to each other in person at least once a day. And agree that you will both turn off your personal electronic devices (PED) and, preferably, put them somewhere out of sight during electronic free time.
And, of course, this includes your phone in particular. Constantly checking your email, twitter, Facebook or Snapchat while at dinner takes away from your ability to be present with the people around you. And, it’s pretty rude. Right?! I’ve been on the receiving end of this and thought, “Hmm, I must not be that important to this person right now.”
You want to send a message to your partner that you care enough about them to remove any distractions. This little tip has done wonders for those who commit to it. Even if just for 5 or 10 minutes a day, try this for a week and see what happens.
If you’re out to lunch with a friend or colleague, ditch the phone or run the risk of the other person thinking, “Why did you bother asking me to lunch if you’re going to be constantly on your phone when I’m right here in front of you?” Obviously, there are going to be exceptions if you’re a doctor or nurse who is on call or if you’re a patient waiting for your own doctor to contact you with lab results. But other than those situations, it’s usually best to turn it off, or at least place it in silent or airplane mode.
Once you’ve done that, you are giving an unconscious signal to your company that they are truly worthy of your full and undivided attention; that you are open to connecting and sharing your time together; and most importantly, that you care. It also gives you a chance to mentally break from the stress of the online world and enjoy the gift of conversation with the person across from you!
Tip: Carve out a period of time at some point in any given day, where you will both give your PEDs a timeout for a specific amount of time. Devote that time to being with each other. I initially suggest to couples that they try this for at least 10 minutes a day. That might not sound like a lot of time, but you might be surprised at how this small window of time creates a real opportunity to connect with your loved one.
2. Face Conflicts In Person
My own experiences with clients and in my personal life, coupled with new research, clearly demonstrates that no electronic device can ever take the place of in-person contact. There is nothing quite like being in the same room as your partner. You can see their face. The subtle looks. Their body language. Even how they breathe.
All these things are visual clues that help you to better understand the words they speak. You just can’t get that via texting or a PM.
If there is a physical distance between you, don’t try to resolve a problem via text. And while emoticons can be helpful, they don’t always express our full intent or meaning when texting. If it is urgent and can’t wait until the two of you are in the same room, then try the next best thing. Pick up the phone and actually talk with one another. Hearing each other’s voices is much more helpful. If possible, try Facetime or Skyping each other to see if that works. The idea is to be able to see your partner’s face to get those important visual cues.
Tip: Have an agreement between the two of you that you will both intend to do everything you possibly can to deal with any issues you have in person.
3. Want Great Sex? Ditch Your Phone In The Bedroom
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard from one member of a couple that they feel that the presence of a cell phone or other PED, has hurt their sex life. Again, research supports the fact that the use of cell phones in the bedroom is hurting the sex life of more and more couples.
You have to ask yourself this question: “What’s more important to me right now? Being intimate with my partner or holding this electronic gadget in my hand?”
And being intimate could mean sex or simply cuddling before you go to bed or when you wake up in the morning.
Tip: Unless you’re a doctor or nurse who is on call, put your cell phones on silent or airplane mode when you walk into your bedroom at night.
4. Don’t Break Up With Someone In a Text
We’ve all heard stories or perhaps even experienced this ourselves. Most people when polled will say that this is NOT socially acceptable. And yet, some actually do it. Whether because of fear of confrontation, anger, avoidance, or just bad manners, it should not be done.
Tip: Instead, show the person some respect by breaking up in person, even if you’ve only been on a few dates and certainly if you’ve been dating for months or years. It will give both you and them a better opportunity to provide closure on both sides by seeing and hearing about the motivation and feelings about the relationships. Breaking up via text, email, or suddenly changing your Facebook status without any warning for your now ex-partner, paves the way for resentment. It also makes you look bad. Really bad.
You may even find that sharing your feelings about the breakup can help you and your partner move forward in a healthy way.
5. Call Them!
This applies to couples who are physically apart as well as family, friends, fellow students, and colleagues. Give them a call if you haven’t actually spoken in a while. As mentioned above, clues and nuances to how the person is really doing can be lost over text or email. Some things just can’t be conveyed over written word.
Tip: I take my own advice and make it a point to call at least one person a week whom I haven’t seen in some time. As a result, there are some wonderful conversations taking place that probably could never have taken place via text or social media. In addition, I make it a point to see people in person on a regular basis.
6. Get Together!
It can be easier to interact with someone’s Facebook feed rather than the actual person. Yes, clicking the “Like” button lets them know that you are around and interested enough to see what’s happening in their life but, again, it’s not the same as direct personal contact.
Perhaps it’s distance, but what if it’s your friend who lives across town, or even across the street? You know what they are up to on a daily basis, but you haven’t grabbed a coffee or had lunch “in ages”. Why?
Again, it’s easier to click “Like” and send a smiley face emoji, easier to convey sorrow for something with a sad face emoji without having to go through the potential discomfort of seeing the other person truly upset for whatever reasons.
It’s easier to trust in what the other person is saying (after all, why would they line online?). It’s also easier to keep people at arm’s length when we are the one in pain and are not really comfortable being vulnerable in person.
Tip: I make it a point to get together with at least one or two people every few weeks so that we can really catch up. Doing this also sends a message to the people I love, that they’re important enough for me to actually see them and be with them in person!
7. Be Flexible When Needed
Of course, there are going to be those times when an urgent situation has arises. That multimillion-dollar deal has to close by tomorrow morning and you need to go over the final details of the contract tonight. You need your computer or tablet to do that. Maybe you’re planning a wedding and need to spend extra time with your wedding planner but she can only talk tonight. Hey, I get it. Life happens.
Tip: The main point is this: These need to be the exceptions and not the rule. Enjoy your personal devices. I do. We all do. Just don’t let them silently and insidiously ruin your relationships.
You and the important people in your life deserve real connection: personal, human, face-to-face connection whenever possible. Set this as your intention, and you will likely be happier and more personally fulfilled than you might imagine.
There’s more to come!
I hope that this blog has been helpful to you and for your loved ones. Look for another blog in the near future, to help parents with some guidelines about children and teenagers who use electronic devices and social media.
If you would like more help with this topic, simply contact me and we can talk about it. I’ll help you explore what all of this means, how it may be impacting your life, and help you develop some additional tips on how to effectively use, and not use social media.