Technology is massively changing and improving the way we communicate, but right now, it’s killing our relationships.
Here are some of the deadly effects digital communication may be having on your relationship:
GlobalWebIndex conducted a survey that revealed internet users spend:
…an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes a day on social networking and messaging platforms.
But why is this the case?
Sites like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, and Pinterest are all designed to keep you on them for as long as possible. There are algorithms that supply you with a curated stream of flashing images, auto-playing videos, and funny memes - all designed to make you literally addicted.
You’re more likely than ever to engage with your phone versus other forms of entertainment - including socializing with other people sitting right next to you. In relationships, this phone-dependency can transform a loving and connected couple into zombies who sit side-by-side, without speaking, without acknowledging one another for potentially hours.
You might even notice that someone is checking their notifications, DMs, or timeline during a planned couples’ activity like a date or dinner.
There’s even a term for this phenomenon: Phubbing, or ‘phone snubbing’.
According to a study published by Baylor University:
Phone-heavy behaviors are detrimental to relationship satisfaction and overall happiness. Phubbing also leads to a higher likelihood of conflict in the relationship, which can ultimately result in breaking up.
No matter how advanced chatting, messaging, or calling might become, it is still not as effective (or productive) as face-to-face interaction. Most communication is non-verbal.
Think about a memorable conversation that you’ve had and you can probably picture the expression, body language, or vocal tone of the person(s) involved. None of the things that distinguish your point effectively carry over into texting, although some emojis and gifs attempt to make up for this deficit. Audio clips are a little better, but they are usually too brief to sustain a meaningful conversation. After sending several audio clips back and forth, a couple might opt for a phone call or facetime call, but there can still be a challenge here in directing sole, undivided attention to their partner (especially when notifications breeze across the top of the screen).
Plus, in a heated discussion or argument, it’s much easier to simply hang up on someone when things escalate - and while having proper communication techniques can help you make the face-to-face discussion run more smoothly, problems are not usually solved by ignoring them.
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With social media and messaging platforms at the ready 24/7, the access we have to thousands of potential friends, connections, and partners is literally right inside our pocket. When a couple doesn’t speak about what’s okay and what’s not on social media accounts, one or both partners might assume “if it’s not forbidden, it’s allowed” - and that can lead to strain on the relationship if one partner sees something triggering on the other person’s page.
Some experts call it remote infidelity, a new kind of emotional cheating that’s growing in popularity as the line between a friendly interaction and sending flirty texts become blurred. Make a commitment to being proactive, instead of reactive, and discuss with your partner boundaries you’re both comfortable with.
Some specialists advise men and women not to share too many of the details about disagreements or disappointments regarding their love lives with friends and family.
The reasoning behind this strategy is: while the individual who is venting may eventually forgive their partner, their friends and family have an innate bias to stay ‘on their side’, which means they may hold a grudge against the partner, even after the issue has been resolved.
Another problem that can result from over-sharing intimate details of your relationship or breakup online is that your partner or ex might be embarrassed, insulted, or angered by what you post. Cleaning up the mess that is left after a post or photo (especially one that gets a lot of attention) can’t always be reversed. Imagine squeezing all of the toothpaste out of a tube and then trying to spoon it back inside - messy, complicated, and basically impossible. Once something is online, it’s online forever, and that includes the comments, reactions, and shares that your dirty laundry might provoke. At worst it may jeopardize your chances of reuniting with them it you hoped to.
Our texts can be difficult to decipher, especially without hearing our tone of voice or seeing our body language. More and more are couples learning this the hard way. Texting is used as a major form of communications, including discussions about disagreements, on-going arguments or sensitive topics. A small misinterpretation can be blown into a fight.
Misunderings can happen even if your conversations are casual. This is especially true when a conversation may have many ‘threads’ - simultaneously you might intend to reply to one question, not realizing that your response could be applied to another one instead. If your partner reacts poorly because texts have been sent out of order or forget to address an important point, a communication wedge is driven between the two of you.
There’s also a hidden cost to relying on texts too much.
Couples who interact mostly over text or email also do little to improve or strengthen their in-person communication skills, which are an important component of creating and maintaining a healthy relationship. The most important discussions in a relationship are best carried out in person - future plans, compromise, grief, emotional needs, intimacy, finances, etc. All of these topics can hold huge consequences for both parties involved - and so, they should be regarded with the right amount of attention and care. However, if you are accustomed to mentally ‘checking in’ and ‘checking out’ after a few seconds of focus (say, the time it takes to type a text message), you’ll have a harder time giving your partner and the situation the care they both deserve.