In a world of tech, it’s easy to lose touch with your loved ones in real time. Learn how to stay connected…without the technology.
There’s no denying that technology has made connecting with others much easier for us, but these connections are mostly ‘cyber’. It’s important to look at how your link with technology is influencing your ‘real-life’ relationships. We asked Northwold-based executive business and life coach, Janice Hanly, to share a few ideas on achieving a better balance between your cyber and real-life relationships.
Are you addicted to your phone?
Everyone seems to be constantly glued to their phones, even when they’re busy with other activities like eating dinner or watching TV. Janice believes our dependence on our phones and technology has definitely become an addiction and a trap that anyone can fall into. ‘We’re living in an “instant” age where we’re “online” all the time,’ she says.
She explains that your phone’s like a magnet, drawing your attention away from your present activity and company. ‘Some people can’t even go to the cinema without answering messages immediately and missing key parts of the movie. Not to mention the disturbance they cause for everyone around them with the light from their phones! Perhaps this addiction comes from a desire to feel needed and necessary.’
Whether you’re with your partner, children, or a friend, the effect of being glued to your phone is the same. ‘Your
conversation becomes distracted and unfocused,’ explains Janice. ‘Off-hand comments are made while the magnetism of the phone draws you in. Those not on the phone become agitated and annoyed as they’re not receiving your full attention. This can make them feel dismissed and insulted and, while these feelings often go unvoiced, they build up into resentment, which causes your relationships to suffer.’
Did you know?
Nomophobia (no-mobile-phone phobia) is the irrational fear of being without your phone or not being able to use it due to a dead battery or no signal. UK-based YouGov created the term after its 2008 study revealed that 53% of phone users became anxious when unable to use their phones. More recent stats indicate the number has increased to 66%.
Building a wall, breaking down intimacy
Janice believes phones and other technology have become extremely intrusive in our relationships. ‘A phone conversation introduces an “invisible” third party, and while conversation ensues, one person is totally excluded. This is rude and counterproductive to building an intimate relationship,’ she says. ‘This subject comes up with many of my clients; they feel helpless in the face of their partner constantly cyber-chatting with “faceless” cyber people. When you sit there, silently messaging others, it’s like having numerous people your partner doesn’t even know join you in the room. It puts up an immediate “wall” between the two of you.’
As Janice explains, most people just want one thing from their partner: the meta-message of ‘I see you’. This doesn’t happen with cyber, faceless people in the room. ‘In the distracted cyber state, the person on the phone misses vital nuances like a slight frown, a concerned or worried face, sad slumped shoulders, or a loving smile. They miss the small body language cues that signal what’s going on with their partner.’
Rebuild the bond
‘Openness and transparency are key,’ says Janice. ‘Set boundaries and rules upfront to build true intimacy. This includes “cellphone-free” time where you both put your phones away and focus only on each other. Obviously both of you must be open to compromise for this to work, and although there are certain expectations that you’ll be available to your children, partner, and boss, it’s okay to set boundaries and let everyone know you’re not available at certain times.’ Janice believes people are forgiving if they’re included. Maintain your intimate connection with your partner by using these tips for handling ‘phone’ situations.
- ‘If there’s an emergency and you’re needed urgently, include your partner and show consideration by explaining why your immediate attention’s needed.’
- ‘If your job requires you to be available outside office hours, explain this to your partner from the get-go.’
Tech: help or hindrance?
Janice says tech’s been amazing in giving us wider reach. We hear heart-warming stories about how tech and apps have brought old friends and lost loves back together, reunited families, and even helped people find their soul mates. ‘Technology allows introverted people to meet like-minded individuals online, whom they may never have had the courage to meet face-to-face,’ she says. ‘However, the downside is it has also caused some people to become more secluded and hermetic by giving them the false illusion that they’re socialising when they’ve actually lost the ability to socialise in real life. Teenagers in particular believe they have “hundreds” of friends, but most of these are cyber.
While they’re cyber-chatting all over the world, there’s a real life out there that they’re missing out on.’
She explains the only way to change this is by writing and speaking about the somewhat lost art of real socialisation to try and make people more aware. ‘Parents can make a difference by setting a good example for their kids, encouraging and welcoming “real” friends into their home,’ she says. ‘Encourage your child to socialise, go out to visit
friends, and get involved in activities and sports where they meet other children.’
More facetime (not the app)
How often do you send your friend a message telling them you miss them without actually making plans to see them? Janice believes cyber messages certainly have a place in that they allow you to let people know you’re thinking of them, but she questions how much thought and effort really goes into this. She urges you to look at your life and the extent to which messages, calls, and social media have replaced actually seeing your friends.
‘Life’s become incredibly fastpaced and stressful. Facing traffic is daunting, our jobs are taking a toll on us, our working hours are extended, and by the end of the week we’re just too exhausted to make the effort to see friends,’ says Janice. ‘If you want to change this, take a serious look at your life: Are you overidentifying with your job? Are you
over-identifying with your role as a mom? Have you forgotten there’s a real life with real people out there, and work/life balance is something to strive for?’ While this is easier said than done, Janice urges you to look at the bigger picture of your life and see the importance of mixing with friends, drawing inspiration from them, gathering positive energy and growth from your face-to-face interactions, and understanding your role in inspiring and contributing to
your friends’ growth too.
Bridge the gap
Although we’re all on our own paths and independence is important for growth, some of the greatest lessons we can
learn come from stories told by the older generation. Janice says, ‘Spending “real” time with the older generation can be so precious and valuable. Our lives are enriched when we listen to their stories; we learn about our own history, picking up patterns and values that have filtered down into our own lives.’ The younger generation will want to spend time with their ageing parents and grandparents if they make an effort to understand and stay ‘young at heart’ themselves. ‘Try to genuinely listen and take an interest in what your young ones say to you, and try to develop empathy for what they face in life instead of thinking “this generation and these youngsters have no idea”,’ she says.
The older generation can learn a lot from younger generations in terms of how to use technology and stay connected; it works both ways. Younger generations need to slow down, spend time with their ageing parents and grandparents, and teach and encourage them to use tech. ‘Some elderly people refuse to learn how to use tech, and in some cases we need to accept this and make an effort to stay in touch with them in more traditional ways,’ says Janice. ‘But the reality is, tech is here to stay, and we should embrace it to some extent as we aim to find balance between our cyber and real lives.’
FEATURE: CANDICE CURTIS PHOTOS: FOTOLIA.COM