How addicted are to to our phone?
I was sitting in waiting the dentist the other day. It was full of people waiting to be treated. I had not forgotten to take my mobile phone with me, so I was looking around the room; posters, pictures, and magazines. I then turned my attention to the people sitting. All of them apart from a more elderly lady were looking at their mobile phones. I thought to myself, "at least I am not the only person not connected to my phone". Then a few seconds later the lady gets her phone out and starts texting. And here I am alone among people buried in their phones, not acknowledging each other. There was something about this experience that made me step back a little and think about the role of technology in our lives and how it can enable but also disable our genuine connections with others.
I am old enough to remember a time when I did not have a mobile phone, and emailing someone was not really commonplace. I had to communicate either using a landline telephone, face-to-face contact, or sometimes by letter. Just thinking about this time now, and the difference in communication and connection with others is interesting. There is no doubt that advances in technology have helped our ability to have immediately available connection with others; connection that may not have existed so easily decades ago. For example, that video call to your relative overseas, emailing your letter to Father Christmas, or sending photos from your holiday in a message to your family. These things have helped us to keep in touch with others and share things about our lives.
In the field of psychology, there have been many advances in the use of technology to aid the treatment of mental health conditions and promoting mental well-being. For example, the emerging research into the effectiveness of virtual reality exposure, the availability of smart phone Apps allow people to have access to training to promote psychological well-being in their lives (e.g. Headspace App). Also, the fact that Psychologists/Therapists can offer online session with clients; reaching out to individuals that may not have engaged in therapy otherwise. I think that technology certainly has a place to help individuals, however, also being present, is important to social and emotional connection.
As humans, social connection is important in our lives. Social connection generally is the feeling of closeness and belonging. Remember Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs, there was the inclusion of social connection in Love and Belongingness need. This is something we need in order to attain self-actualisation. There is also research out there that highlights the positive psychological and physical impact of social connection (e.g. Martino, Pegg & Frates, 2015). But if we think about what it feels like when we have genuine connection with others; it feels good. We may laugh, feel content, relaxed, comfortable to express ourselves, engaged, closeness, included, happy, and I could go on. I am sure that some of these could be met through digital methods, but how deep, genuine and fulfilling are the connections? This would be something interesting to look at, whether it is possible to meet self-actualisation through a digital format.
Technology and Emotional Expression
Although technology has a place in modern communication, it also makes me consider the impact if it is overused – used as a substitute for actual human connection. An important part of us being human, is the emotions we experience and express. Expressing our emotions through technology is easy, there are many, many emojis these days to portray an emotion (they even have their own name! Emoticons): 😀 = happiness, 🥰 = love, 😭 = sadness, 🤬 = angry, and so on. When we see these icons, we get the gist of how a person may be feeling. However, when we put that emoticon in our messages, are we really truly experiencing and living that emotion? Is it the same, as when we express the emotion to someone face to face? Does it feel the same in our bodies? Also, as recipients, do we feel the same experience as when someone shares their emotions with us? In the long-term, how does this affect our ability to communicate our emotions to others? How does this impact on our emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence (EI) is being able to identify your own emotions, and the emotional states of others; it is important to develop, and maintain interpersonal relationships. Goleman (1995) believed that individuals with a higher level of EI had better relationships, able to more effective adapt in environments and were generally more successful in the workplace. He proposed that there are five qualities that make up EI:
It is useful to think about how technology may hinder the development and maintenance of our EI. How effectively is EI actualised through technology?
Striking a Balance
It is clear that technological advances do have benefits in our lives, after all you are reading this blog! Also, without these advances, some parts of our lives would be more of a challenge. So, I do not think that there should be an ‘all or nothing’ approach to how and when we use technology to engage in social and emotional connection. I think that like with most things, excess of something can lead us to experience problems. For example, the overuse and over-reliance on mobile phones; for most of us they feature in our lives, however do we have a tendency to use them in place of genuine connection with others? Here are some suggestions to help you disconnect from technology:
Maybe disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with your emotions is something that you can relate to. We understand this can be a challenge. For AntiLoneliness, March is Emotional Awareness Month. We are paying more attention to this in a number of ways:
You are not alone.
Ashworth, C. (Aug 1, 2019). Are We Losing the Human Connection? Taken from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2019/08/01/are-we-losing-the-human-connection/#2c3baf875baa
Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam.
Grover, S. (2017). How Technology Lowers Emotional Intelligence in Kids. Taken from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-kids-call-the-shots/201707/how-technology-lowers-emotional-intelligence-in-kids
Headspace (2020). https://help.headspace.com/hc/en-us
Jones, L. (July 12, 2018). The Digital Age: Are we loosing human connection? Taken from: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/the-digital-age-are-we-losing-human-connection/
Martino, J., Pegg, J. Frates E.P. (2015). The Connection Prescription: Using the Power of Social Interactions and the Deep Desire for Connectedness to Empower Health and Wellness. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 11(6):466-475. doi: 10.1177/1559827615608788
😁 😂 🤣 😃 😄 😅 😆 😉 😊 😋 😎 😍 😘 😗 😙 😚 🙂 🤗 🤩 🤔 🤨 😐 😑 😶 🙄 😏 😣 😥 😮 🤐 😯 😪 😫 😴 😌 😛 😜 😝 🤤 😒 😓 😔 😕 🙃 😲 ☹️ 🙁 😖 😞 😟 😤 😢 😦 😧 😨 😩 🤯 😬 😰 😱 🥵 🥶 😳 🤪 😵 😡 😠 😷 🤒 🤕 🤢 🤮 🤧 😇
Written by Helena Virk, M.Sc.
Psychologist at AntiLoneliness
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE.