Is technology really detrimental to our relationships? Why I’m saying yes…

I’ve written about this before but was reminded of it whilst listening to a recent podcast.

Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s Feel Better, Live More podcast comes highly recommended. It is the #1 health podcast in the UK and Europe and aims to simplify the subject of health. The podcast episodes feature interviews with leading health experts and celebrities who offer easy healthy life-hacks and expert advice whilst also debunking common health myths.

A lot of the episodes are between 90-120 minutes though I really like the weekly Bitesize episodes, which are around 10 minutes and feature snippets from the full-length episodes. It was one of these, episode #276 (Transform Your Life with a Digital Detox – link here) which prompted this week’s YYCDI post.

In the episode, Adam Alter, an author and expert on the addictive nature of technology, explains that whilst there are many positive elements of using technology, we need to be mindful in just how we use it. He offers up some truly astonishing insights and, thankfully, some great tips to help us restore some balance to live a more fulfilling life.

The one quote from the episode which really hit home for me, from Dr Chatterjee himself, was:

I think it’s one of the biggest problems with tech – I think it’s detrimental to relationships. I just see relationships, husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, father/child, mother/child, including with myself, not being as fulfilled as they once were because of screens.

If you’ve read previous posts, you’ll be familiar with me discussing the issues I have with the addictive nature of mobile phones, but this quote really got me thinking. It’s easy to overlook the fact that it doesn’t say ‘mobile phone screens’ – it simply refers to screens as a generic term. This made me think of all the screens I look at during a regular day. My phone screen, my work laptop screen, my personal laptop screen, one of the 4 TV screens in our house, a Kindle screen, and on occasion, a tablet screen. A huge percentage of my day – I would estimate 80-90% – is spent looking at a screen. That is horrifying.

Some other quotes from the podcast which also resonated:

It isn’t just adults struggling to communicate with their children. Children are finding it equally as difficult to connect with their parents.

As important as my kids are to me, they know there is this other device that’s grabbed a huge chunk of my attention in the moment and it’s definitely harming my relationships, even if it’s in small ways, with them.

Proximity to your phone will determine how often you will use it. If you phone is near you, it will have a bigger effect on your world.

There is one key question which slapped me right in the face – how many hours of the day can I reach my phone without moving my feet? Astonishingly, for a huge number of people, the answer is 24. The podcast goes on to say:

These devices are not part of our brains but functionally, they’re basically implants – they’re part of us; they’re an extension of who we are.  One way to gauge if you’re succeeding in your fight against using tech more than you’d like is to say, ‘how many minutes of the day, or hours of the day, do I spend where I can’t reach my phone without moving my feet?’ If the answer is zero, that’s a problem. One thing to do is to start building in periods where you have to move to reach your phone. Phones are so addictive. If they’re there, you cant resist. That’s the whole point of them. So, you have to put physical blockers in the way.

I try to leave my phone in different rooms for periods within each day, especially when I’m working, though it isn’t easy and I’d estimate it is still within reach for at least 75% of the time. The line about phones essentially being a part of us is hideous – it immediately conjured up images of a scene from some dystopian sci-fi horror movie where we’re all being gradually brainwashed over time. It really is a problem.

If you have an opportunity to, please do spare 15 minutes to listen to the podcast. It is scary and enlightening in equal measure and includes many more useful discussion points than I’ve included here. And to answer the question in the title of this blog, yes – I’m 100% certain that technology is detrimental to our relationships. None of us may like to admit it but it is undoubtedly true. If you’re content with that, this whole post has probably been a complete waste of time. But if, like me, this makes you feel uneasy / guilty / shamed a little, have a think about what you can do to try improving the situation. These devices are addictive and they’re certainly tough to put down or leave somewhere else for an hour or two. However, we must try breaking that stranglehold they have on us, for the good of all the relationships in our lives.

As always, thanks for reading and take care.

Best wishes.

Mick

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