Samantha De Bono Counselling Bromley

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The Part Technology Plays in Disconnecting Our Relationships 

by Samantha De Bono

Technology has definitely made our lives easier, it's helped us to be more effective in our work and allowed us to connect with friends, family and colleagues across the world. However, as I often like to say, 'with every gain there is loss' because far too often, relationships suffer because of the effects of technology and how it dominates us.

Whether you like technology or not, the simple truth is, we can't avoid it. Technology is engrained into every part of our day, from the moment we wake until we go to sleep at night. Unless you live on a desert island and have rejected a modern way of life , technology is actually needed to get on with our day-to-day living.

But as much as technology promotes connection, it also promotes disconnection. It's not that I don't like technology, I accept that it's part of my life and helps me enormously in my work life and helps me to keep in touch with family and friends and to be honest, I couldn't imagine life without it. But what I find interesting is the fact that although technology can help us communicate faster, cheaper and clearer, many people are more lonely and isolated than ever before.

Technology is often used to create a pseudo social life. By this I mean a person can create the illusion or perception that they are very connected and engaged, when the reality is they are anything but. This tends to happen when a person does all their engaging online, yet doesn't meet with people in the real world. For example, some people may have hundreds of Facebook friends or Twitter followers but don't have friends they meet up with or interact with offline. How many of those Facebook "friends" could be counted on to be there or lean on during difficult times? The same goes for dating websites. Many people share a facade with someone they wish they had the confidence or self esteem to meet face to face.

The key is to find a balance, a connection online AND offline. I think technology is great to facilitate connection, but then take it into the real world, where something of substance can be developed.

I wonder if the mental heath of people was better in the days when the only way of communicating with anyone was by talking to them on the phone or physically going to meet with them?

We live in a culture of instant gratification, "I want it now" type thinking, we don't wait for anything and are becoming more and more impatient. This can cause reactionary behaviour because we fail to reflect on things, and take our time to make decisions.

One of the areas I see this play out in relationships is in the couple that have an instant connection and rapport, and then fast-forward their relationship to moving in, marriage and/or having kids. They haven't taken the time to get to know one another and allow things to unfold in an organic way. As a result, they often find they have rushed into a relationship without fully knowing someone.

I also see this play out in disagreements between couples. Once upon a time if we had a fall-out with a partner, chances were, by the time we communicated again, we had had time to reflect on how we felt and things felt calmer. Now what I see time and time again, is arguments carried out by text, so instead of sitting on the train in a 'time-out' space, messages are flying back and forth, whipping the couple up into a state ready for round 2, 3, 4... when they meet again.

What is important to remember, is that even though technology can help you communicate at light speed, you, as a human being, might need more time to work out what you want and how you want it. Slow yourself down, take time out to reflect and support yourself in making sound decisions that will impact you greatly in the future.

How much time do you spend away from work? Really? are you sure? I'm willing to bet that thanks to the invention of smartphones, you are almost never away from your work emails and notifications – thanks to technology you are instantly connected and tuned-in to others at all times. There is no way this couldn't impact on your relationships. You may be working harder than you ever have, you're more connected to work, friends and family than you thought was possible, but the real question is, how connected are you to yourself and your partner?

When was the last time you spent time with your partner or family with no distractions? A night you didn't play on your iPhone or read your iPad in bed? or send emails or text messages? Or a day without technology altogether for that matter? No phones, iPad, emails, DVDs, TV or computers? If that sounds like a strange idea, you're not alone. Being connected to technology at all hours of the day has become the modern-day disease.

Try having a technology-free day or weekend (has that thought given you palpitations?). See what it's like not to check your texts or emails at intervals throughout the day, try to notice what else is in your life when you take technology away. You might be surprised by what you discover.