The Effect of Technology on Communication in Relationships

February 27, 2015 - 11:34am

Technology such as email, Facebook, Twitter, My Space, YouTube, Instagram and many other sites are all amazing tools that have the intent to bring inter-connectedness around the world.

These methods of communication, however, also have the capacity to negatively impact relationships. In both my counselling practise and my personal life I have recognized first hand that technology has the potential to negatively impact relationships in terms of etiquette.

Technology may cause people to forget to use fundamental basics in etiquette when communicating.  

One such etiquette practise that is lost is looking at the person in front of you. For instance, have you ever seen a group of teens together who are all standing in a group next to each other but all remain head down to face their phones instead of engaging with each other face to face? Or, have you ever looked around a restaurant and seen a couple on a date with one or both of them paying more attention to their phone than each other? And, have you ever seen a child acting out to get their parents attention when they are using their cell phone or heard a child say to their parent," put your phone down and watch me!" Not to say that technology doesn't have its place, but rather that balance is the key. Think of it this way, there are now things in place to govern technology etiquette in the professional world such as a sign in the doctor's office or other business places. Don't your loved ones deserve that same etiquette? Spend time with each other talking and engaging and be present for moments spent with those right in front of you. Take time for your technology but don't let it control your whole day by setting boundaries and limiting your tech time or your kids tech time.

Another etiquette practice that is often jeopardized in technology is simple politeness,  empathy, and non-verbal communication. A lot of people are more careless with their words electronically and may say things they would not normally say that can be very hurtful. This is often termed cyber-bullying. There have been a lots of kids, teens and even adults who have been very hurt emotionally by people not paying attention to the fact that those electronic words hurt others. Often, electronic  words are also misinterpreted as a huge part of our communication is non-verbal which leads to misunderstanding when those non-verbal cues are missing from the screens. In some situations cyber-bullying and miscommunication may lead to self-esteem issues, depression, relationship breakdown, and family problems. Take time to choose your words carefully and think for a moment if you would truly say the same thing to that person if they were standing right in front of you. Think about what you would feel like if you were to read those same words directed at you. Pause and take a few moments before you hit the send button.

Ysanne Gabora, B.A., M.C.

Counsellor at CFSPA

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