Tap tap tap – where do we draw the line?
When do you stop work for the day? The line between home and work life is blurred. That’s not a problem for some people who enjoy their work and are happy to make it fit at times that suits them. But, what about when it begins to encroach on family time? And what about the broader use of technology that gets in the way of our day-to-day interactions?
I recently spent time with a younger client who still lives with her parents. We explored what gets in the way of meaningful relationships at home, the type where people open up to each other, are honest and supportive. Where people connect by spending time together watching a shared tv programme, chatting, going for dog walks and the ‘normal’ family stuff we’ve hopefully experienced. This young lady named the main barriers she experiences: her parents’ work and their phones. She wants to feel safe and connected, basic emotional needs, but she doesn’t have their full attention.
In modern relationships, devices play a big part of keeping families constantly connected, enabling them to build their relationships. But this link with technology also has potential issues. According to a recent survey from Kaspersky Lab, 51% of couples have argued about a device being used during a meal or face-to-face conversation and over half of people have argued with their partner about them spending too much time on a phone or tablet. Smartphones aren’t just annoying our family members, they’re stressing us out as well. The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America: Coping with Change 2017 poll found that 86 percent of U.S. adults constantly or often check their email, texts, and social media accounts.
Do you sit on the sofa in front of the tv together with the phone nearby? During intervals in the programme, tempted to quickly check email? Or post a quick update on Whatsapp? At the end of the work day, is there ‘just one more thing!” to finish. There’s a greater emphasis on getting the balance right for employees now but what about their families and family relationships? Mobile phones mean we’re available 24/7 and that’s had a real impact on how we relate to each other in our day-to-day lives. Really look around you next time you’re in a waiting room, at the playground with your kids, eating a meal in a cafe… count how many people are on their phone.
We need to be looking at each other when we’re talking so that we can read emotions and connect through eye contact and facial expressions. When someone’s eyes are averted, we don’t feel engaged or attended to. If someone you’re with picks up their phone when notifications go off while you’re talking, what does that say to you? The people I’m communicating with on my phone/ laptop are more important than those person nearby. What impact is that having on your relationships? What are others’ perceptions of you? What do they feel is important in your world? My client suggested that being ‘productive’ was more important than the softer aspects of her mum being there for her. We unpicked this and the client realised this might not be true. But, that was her starting point and where she would have stayed had she not explored this with me.
There’s no right or wrong answer; it’s different for each of us. But think about how and when you use your devices and consider the impact on those around you. The APA 2017 Stress in America survey revealed that two-thirds of Americans say they
“somewhat or strongly agree that periodically ‘unplugging’ or taking a ‘digital detox’ is important for their mental health. However, only 28 percent of those who say this actually report doing so.”
Be clear with yourself and to those around you about when you will use devices and when they will go away. Enjoy being present with those around you and investing in your relationships.
The pros and cons of device devotion in relationships, Kaspersky 2018
APA’s Survey Finds Constantly Checking Electronic Devices Linked to Significant Stress for Most Americans, February 2017