Unsocial media

By Marilee Griffin • Published: February 19th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Does being constantly connected through technology actually make us lonelier in the long run? The research indicates yes.

Experts say the constant presence of social media and smart phones — and texting in particular — is influencing us in a few significant ways.

First, the constant presence of our phones means we are always connected. By being constantly connected, it’s hard for us to ever be truly alone. If we forget how to be alone, we simply feel lonely when we are by ourselves.

Second, by exchanging actual conversation for texts and updates, we make convenience and control a priority, substituting real conversation for mere connection. Controlling what we say and how long it takes to say it is alluring, but we miss out on the messy, complex interactions that help us develop conversational skills.

Third, we expect more from technology and less from each other. Technology provides the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.

This is all particularly detrimental for adolescents, who are still developing social skills. Adolescents are also developing a sense of identity that can be hindered by the constant presence of a cell phone, which often tethers them to their parents. While this can be reassuring to parents, many adolescents today are not experiencing the same independence their parents enjoyed as teens.

This is not just an issue for children, either. Parents are increasingly distracted by technology, and children can find themselves competing with a smart phone for attention — say, at the breakfast table.

Want to combat this? Try occasionally banning cell phone use at home. Or make the dinner table a sacred space. Technology is fine, just make sure to keep the conversation flowing, too.