How Technology Influences Relationships
Technology changes rapidly and has a considerable impact on the lives of people. This is particularly the case for communication technologies. Technologies such as the internet, mobile phones, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, email, Myspace and YouTube, just to mention a few, have been instrumental in enhancing how people connect with each electronically, which has made the world more interconnected than before. However, this interconnectedness comes at a cost. For instance, face-to-face communication is diminishing as people are increasingly relying on mobile phones and the internet for communication and building their relationships with family and friends. Additionally, overreliance on technology negatively affects people’s communication and social skills. The purpose of this research is to explore the effect of technology on relationships. Technology has become an integral part of people’s lives; however, the increased reliance on technology affects socialization (social suicide), the relationship space, and results in illness.
Technology affects socialization, especially through alienating people from social circles or scenes; hence, resulting in social suicide. The first way through which technology results in social suicide is through isolation, wherein people become accustomed to being alone and blocking themselves away from friends and family. Isolation comes as a result of people being addicted to technology. A prevalent example is Internet addiction, wherein a person can be addicted to pornography or just browsing the web. Lickerman describes the Internet as the television of the twenty-first century and an electronic drug that isolates people from the electronic world. Just like any other form of addiction, being addicted to the Internet can negatively affect the quantity and quality of relationships. Although a person might enjoy online relationships via social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, substantial differences exist between online relationships and relationships in the real world. Although online platforms help to expand one’s social network, a problem arises when people find themselves unknowingly swapping online relationships for physical relationships, or when mistaking online relationships for physical relationships. Whereas an individual might feel that he/she is connecting with others effectively through the Internet, it is paradoxical that too much online relationships results in social isolation in the real world.
Another way in which technology contributes to social suicide is by affecting social skills. In this respect, overreliance on technology for communication and interaction has a negative influence on the social skills of people. Technology is detrimental to social skills in various ways. First, communication facilitated by technology lacks context. In this regard, Kramer mentions the difficulty of detecting tone the tone in relationships and communications facilitated by technology. For instance, a person cannot accurately ascertain whether another individual is joking, serious, funny, or sarcastic. Kramer further maintains that understanding the context of written words requires hearing the voice, understanding the environment, and seeing the face of another person. This increases the possibility of assumptions, miscommunications, and misunderstandings, which is likely to affect how people perceive others. Technology is also detrimental to social skills since it eliminates personal touch, which according to Kramer, is an essential requirement in building meaningful relationships with others. There are instances where a pat on the back, a hug or a handshake is needed, which is not possible through the Internet. Social media applications try to compensate for this limitation using “emojis” and “stickers”; however, they lack personal connection. Also, Lickerman faults the ability of the Internet to build satisfying and emotionally satisfying relationships.
In any form of relationship, it is imperative to ensure a balance exists between feelings attached and feeling autonomous, which underlies the concept of relationship space. Bad relationships are characterized by overreliance and over-attachment. Technology influences the dynamics of relationship space. The first effect on relationship space is evident in dating relationships involving a boyfriend and girlfriend. In this regard, Lenhart and Duggan point out that social media, cell phones, and the Internet have become important actors in the relationships of the majority of American couples. Additionally, Lenhart and Duggan reveal that a significant portion of these couples quarrel regarding the use of technical and have witnessed hurting experiences attributed to tech usage. Another important finding by these authors is that about two-thirds of couples share their passwords, which in turn affects the relationship space for those in a relationship. The survey by Lenhart and Duggan showed that, although technology acts as a source communication and support for those in a relationship, it also results in tensions among couples. For instance, the survey indicated that 25 percent of married couples felt that their partners were distracted by their mobile phones when spending time together. Also, the findings revealed the amount of time spent online leads to arguments in relationships. The survey by Lenhart and Duggan also revealed that 4 percent of Internet users in a relationship felt disappointment because of the online activities of their spouse. Therefore, it is evident that technology is reducing the amount of time that people spent together as well as blurring the boundaries that people might need in a relationship.
Another way in which technology affects is the relationship space is through triggering fights stemming from unclear meanings in electronic communication. Also, the Internet facilitates confrontation, which can make relationships falter. People often face difficulties initiating confrontations face-to-face, which explains why people prefer using the Internet as an avenue for confronting others. This is because of the poor articulation of emotions in electronic communication relative to personal interaction; thus, people consider electronic communication as the ideal channel for sending difficult messages. Lickerman asserts that electronic communication blocks people from taking note of the negative emotional responses accompanying messages; hence, creating a perception that an individual is not doing any harm. However, this also implies that such messages are not conveyed with empathy, leading to people sending messages that are different from those they intended to send. This further fuels confusion, disagreement, and tension.
Technology also has negative effects on connections between people. According to Dellner, the advent of the social media, the Internet and mobile devices resulted in a significant change in the behavior of humans. For instance, family members might opt to communicate using a text message when they are in different rooms of the same house. People move around with headphones and thumbs on a keyboard. In nearly all places having a Wi-Fi, it is not uncommon to find people sitting alone in the company of their mobile devices rather than conversing with the individual seated across the table.
Another impact of technology on relationships is that it results in illnesses such as sociophobia, also known as social anxiety. This illness is characterized by persistently fearing social situations. People suffering from social have extreme fear regarding what others are thinking of them, resulting in feelings associated with insecurity and rejection. Technology usage has been linked to social anxiety since users are often unable to accurately articulate facial expressions, body language, and tone. When a person spends a lot of time on a computer, he/she may have difficulties to disconnect from technology use and relax, which might translate to relationship problems. Also, over-reliance on technology creates social anxiety when an individual is unable to access technology.
This paper has discusses the various ways through technology affect relationships. The first effect of technology is social suicide, wherein technology results in people isolating themselves from social situations such as friends and family due to technology addiction. Technology also affects people’s social skills. Second, technology affects relationship space by triggering tensions among couples and reducing the time people spend together; triggering fights because of unclear meanings; and negatively affecting the manner in which people communicate. Lastly, technology results in social anxiety.