The world of technology enables many things, but our social behaviour to others is changing, no longer do we want to discuss human to human across problems, maintain commitment in intimacy, share values or communicate our love for one another, the facts are technology is now an efficient tool for dispatching people too.
I read a very interesting story in The Times recently where a lady met a man on an online dating site, the first date apparently went well, the second date she had sex with the man and on the third date they had dinner and then sex together again. The lady purports that they never spoke again, the man never responded with text messages, emails, social online or communication apps, she became a victim of being completely disconnected from the man’s active online world.
The dating phenomenon is a manifestation of a sharp decline in empathy in our society, triggered by technology and the speed in which our current world operates within.
The attitudes and values of online dating have created a ‘rejection’ culture between humans, people have joined the comparison brigade, no commitment, no communication and no confidence, people appear to be increasingly selfish and ruthless. Technology has allowed us to become behind closed doors, rejecting and hiding behind messaging where there is no interest in the now, even after exchanging intimacy, is this not a lack of disrespect, responsibility, technology allows us now to avoid seeing the effect our behaviour has on the other person.
It is a proven statistic that technology can advance a relationship if there is understanding, knowledge and intimacy, so why are we always in a rush, humans are not commodities.
Esther Perel, a psychotherapist specialising in relationships, recently wrote a blog ‘Is Tinder bad for me, interesting enough she goes on to quote one of the new rituals of commitment is deleting the Tinder app. “I’ve deleted my Tinder app” is the new “I’m going to be with only you.” It’s one of the new rituals. It just is.
By definition, choice and commitment implies loss. You choose something, you lose something. In our culture the paradox of choice is such that people have become loath to lose anything.
There’s a common stereotype in culture that young men are promiscuous and only want casual sex, but a researcher of the topic suggests otherwise. Author and psychologist Andrew P. Smiler coined the term, “Casanova stereotype” in reference to this cultural belief perpetuated in Hollywood and homes across the country. Smiler’s research has actually shown that only a small fraction of men surveyed fit the characteristics of this “Casanova stereotype.” More often than not, men want a stable, satisfying, monogamous long-term relationship.
Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, says technology is distracting us from our real-world relationships.
In 40 years, there have been three major game-changers have entered our world: portable computers, social communication and smartphones. The total effect has been to allow us to connect more with the people in our virtual world, but we communicate less with those who are in our real world.
Our real and virtual worlds certainly overlap, as many of our virtual friends are also our real friends. But the time and effort we put into our virtual worlds limit the time to connect and especially to communicate on a deeper level in our real world. With smartphone in hand, we face a constant barrage of alerts, notifications, vibrations and beeps warning us that something seemingly important has happened and we must pay attention. We tap out brief missives and believe that we are being sociable, but as psychologist Sherry Turkle has so aptly said, we are only getting “sips” of connection, not real communication.
Worse, we don’t even need a beep or vibration to distract us anymore. In one study of more than 1,100 teens and adults, fellow researchers found that the vast majority of smartphone users under 35 checked in with their electronic devices many times a day and mostly without receiving an external alert.
Anxiety drives this behaviour. As evidenced by a rash of phantom pocket vibrations, our constant need to check comes from anxiety about needing to know what is happening in our virtual worlds.
In one study, human anxiety levels were monitored of smartphone users when we wouldn’t let them use their phones, and found that the heavy smartphone users showed increased anxiety after only 10 minutes and that anxiety continued to increase across the hour long study. Moderate users showed some anxiety, while light users showed none.
If we are constantly checking in with our virtual worlds, this leaves little time for our real-world relationships.
A second issue is the difference between connecting and communicating. While we may have hundreds of Facebook friends, people we never would have met otherwise, with whom we can share many new things, do they really provide the kind of human interaction that is so essential to our emotional health?
Psychologists define social capital, or the benefit we derive from social interactions, in two ways: bonding and the more superficial bridging. Research shows that virtual-world friends provide mostly bridging social capital, while real-world friends provide bonding social capital.
For instance, in one study it was found that while empathy can be dispensed in the virtual world, it is only one-sixth as effective in making the recipient feel socially supported compared with empathy proffered in the real world. A hug feels six times more supportive than an emoji.
Some very important quotes by Carl Honore, Author of In the Praise of Slow
“Slower, it turns out, often means better – better health, better work, better business, better family life, better exercise, better cuisine and better sex.”
“Much has already been destroyed. We have forgotten how to look forward to things, and how to enjoy the moment when they arrive.”
“While the rest of the world roars on, a large and growing minority is choosing not to do everything at full-throttle. In every human endeavour you can think of, from sex, work and exercise to food, medicine and urban design, these rebels are doing the unthinkable – they are making room for slowness. And the good news is that decelerating works.”
So what is the answer?
I think there needs to be a balance of email, social media and collaboration tools. What ever happened to picking up the phone? Talking to someone face-to-face? Or sending someone a card? Or do we not have time?
We need to examine our technology use to ensure that it isn’t getting in the way of our being sociable and getting the emotional support we need from the people who are closest to us, if we really want to preserve that ‘Special Relationship’
We need to put our phones away in social settings and consider making phone calls when we want to contact people instead of a series of brief texts, misinformed innuendos, and misleading interpretations.
We need to learn to check in less often and seek out face-to-face contact more often.