Balancing Healthy Relationships with Technology
"I Promise to Love, Honor & Disconnect"
BY SHERI DAMON
Technology is here to stay: As technology has become such an integral part of all of our lives in work, social, entertainment, and fact-finding, the impact of this “new” way of being is clearly impacting our relationships and becoming an ever increasing focus for research and therapists alike. Internet addiction, gaming addiction, emotional overstimulation caused by technology and the inability to “disconnect” are all at the forefront of the discussion. “My wife complains that she feels like she is sleeping with my co-workers because even when I am home, I’m answering work emails in front of the TV or in bed.” Another client says, “I just get so involved with my game, the next level, my ‘friends’ that I am online really late and feel like I am cheating on my husband.” A female client describes how technology influences her at work. “I get so stressed at work. I’m constantly checking my phone to see if he has texted me back. I’m going to lose my job.”
Clients come into my office with relationship issues, symptoms of depression, anxiety, eating issues, and sleep issues as they always have. However, upon closer inspection there are new, additional triggers for their distress. I am more and more often focusing on forming healthy relationships with technology, reducing the emotional overdrive caused by technology, and addressing technology addiction. Balancing the essential and useful nature of technology is challenging especially when we are required to be available for work outside of regular business hours.
I have found the need to unplug and recharge your brain elsewhere is much like traversing a balance beam. Have you ever watched someone walk across a balance beam? Some will approach this task with cautious trepidation seemingly taking an eternity to accomplish the crossing. Some will strategically place one foot in front of the other with cagey precision as if their very lives depended on it while others seem to glide effortlessly across without a care in the world. A handful will have their hands outstretched in the air in hopes that an invisible force will embrace them as they sashay from one side to the other. The same is true with our relationships with technology. Some balance the demands of work, tech life and interpersonal relationships effectively, while some get caught in the emotional overdrive that their connected lives triggers.
Others dive deeply into the tech waters but are guided gently by their relationships and still others need a systematic plan for disconnecting from online activities and reconnecting to the people and what holds greater value in their lives. As people saunter through the world of technology, social media, tech communication, and gaming, it is imperative that we acquire a balance with work, home, family, friends, and partners such that our relationship with technology is proceeding at a pace that allows us to confidently cross the beam.
3 Essential Components for Balance with Technology
Connections need to be valued and validated both in the tech world and in our relationships. For example, it may be important to some to resolve emails in a way that tomorrow feels more manageable. Those who enjoy online gaming may reflect, “I feel so good about myself when I reach the highest level and my online friends are impressed” or “It feels important to me to be ‘liked’ and ‘followed.’" Interpersonal relationships benefit when we consciously choose to become available only to our spouse or partner. In the relationship it is important to hear and balance what the tech-connection is and find room for both the in-person time and the tech-connected time. These balancing efforts are vital to the health of our relationships with friends and loved ones.
Optimism: Why is this important? When two people in a relationship are expecting the best possible outcome and focusing on the most promising aspects of a situation they continue to grow together and are less likely to be swept away by the promises of connection or distraction that technology holds. They are able to feel greater sense of control in their world versus an “everything happens to me” kind of attitude. The positive self-talk that comes from this optimistic perspective soothes tension, stress and anxieties making each relationship better and happier. When my clients have changed their internal dialog they report not only seeing themselves in a brighter, more positive light but also seeing their partners from a more beneficial perspective.
Play is the most essential construct in my work with most clients. Finding something that makes them truly smile, feel good, and experience joy pulls together the power of optimism and the needs we all have for connection. Items that soothe your senses, activities that bring laughter and joy, and events that make others feel good or fill a need, are a few ways to distract you from the pressures of your daily grind and will begin to create the much needed balance with tech-based activities.
Technology is an essential part of all of our lives. There is tremendous value in the advancements we make every day in our world. However, we do not want to advance ourselves out of our most basic human need, which is to be with each other in relationships.
AUTHOR'S WEBSITE: http://alternativeconsult.com/