In today’s world, there are very few corners of our lives that aren’t being affected by technology — and that includes the way we interact with others.
Many modern innovations were designed to build and maintain close connections with friends or family and with the touch of a button, you can connect with a loved one anywhere across the globe — in seconds.
According to studies done by the Pew Research Center, 70% of adults use some sort of social media platform daily, and that number may be higher for children and adolescents.
However, the same technology that allows us to connect with others also has the surprising ability to make us feel more alone and isolated than ever before, according to studies.
So, what are the tangible benefits and disadvantages of frequent technology use, and how is it affecting our connections with others?
The Positive Effects Of Technology On Our Social Interaction:
Technology offers some pretty major benefits when it comes to the way we interact with others.
The pros of tech and the good ways that it affects our social interactions include:
1. Access To People Around The World
If your loved ones don’t live locally, modern technology essentially makes the miles disappear, allowing you to connect across the globe. Even if you can’t celebrate big life events in person, you can still be an active participant by connecting with your friends and family online. Technology also allows us to meet people we otherwise wouldn’t have. In my experience, I’ve been able to meet some of my closest friends online and I know I wouldn’t have met them in person given how far away they live. At the end of the day, technology allows us to keep in touch with our existing loved ones and make new relationships, which makes us feel closer to the people we care about.
2. Instant Contact With Anyone And Everyone
There’s something incredibly gratifying about being able to talk with someone right now, especially when you’ve got upsetting or exciting news to share. It’s so convenient to talk to someone the moment you want or need to. Unlike scheduling in-person meetings, you don’t have to spend time parsing out the details of when and where to meet when using technology to interact with others — you just have to click a button and type or talk away. Contacting someone using the latest technology can also save you time and money. You don’t have to go to a restaurant or drive somewhere to meet; you can chat online from wherever you are. Technology saves you the time and effort that’s often involved in going out, allowing you to connect with others and share important moments in your life — even if you’re at home in your PJs.
3. Connection At Any Time Of The Day Or Night
The latest technology enables us to connect with others at times when we may otherwise not — and this can lead to stronger relationships in some cases. For example, I wouldn’t want to call my friend late in the evening, and she probably wouldn’t want a call from me too late unless there was an emergency. Instead, we are both happy to talk to one another on various messaging apps that we can use at our convenience. This has allowed us to talk way more than we would otherwise. There are moments during the day when we think of each other or want to send the other person a funny picture or interesting article. While these conversations wouldn’t necessarily warrant a phone call, sending quick messages back and forth has made our relationship much stronger.
The Negative Effects Of Technology On Our Social Interaction:
Although technology has improved our lives in many ways, it also can negatively impact our social interactions in the following ways:
1. Comparing Yourself To Others
People often use social media to share the best parts of their lives, but when you’re only seeing the highlight reels, you might begin to feel as though your own life is somehow lacking. No matter where you are, you’ve got a front-row view of everyone’s job promotions, engagements, weddings, new babies, family vacations, and countless other experiences you may not be having, yourself. When you compare your life to that of others, the roots of loneliness can quickly take hold. In reality, no one’s life is perfect. Many people don’t feel comfortable sharing difficult moments on social media, so they focus only on the good things — and that’s the only part of their lives that you see. For this reason, it can be easy to lose sight of reality when you consume too much social media. To compensate, you may feel the need to make your social interactions overly positive in a disingenuous way just to keep up the appearance of having a “happy” or “exciting” life, too.
2. Feeling As If You’re Missing Out
If you’ve ever logged off social media feeling worse than when you logged in, you’re not alone! You’ve likely encountered FOMO — the fear of missing out. We’ve all logged onto Facebook or Instagram and seen photos taken at exciting-looking events that we didn’t attend, from parties to random Saturday night get-togethers. Even if you didn’t want to go, feeling as if you’re missing out on something is one of the worst ways that technology has affected our social interactions with others. Instead of enjoying the time you actually do spend with people you love, FOMO can have you scrolling on social media and constantly feeling jealous or jaded about everything you’re not doing.
3. Struggling To Meet Or Connect In-Person
After spending so much time online, meeting someone in person can be shockingly awkward! Even though there are benefits to connecting through technology, it’s not meant to completely replace in-person interaction — but sometimes it does. When this happens, adjusting to social interactions with people face-to-face can be difficult and you may be tempted to avoid non-virtual interactions entirely. When you do manage to connect with someone in person, you might be tempted to check your phone constantly. Since you don’t have to read people’s body language when conversing online, it can be difficult to pick up on certain social cues in person. Finally, you may struggle with keeping up a conversation and any pauses may feel uncomfortable rather than normal. Online, we’re often able to take breaks and pick up conversations hours or days after they first started. Maintaining the flow of an in-person conversation can be especially tricky if the majority of your social interactions occur online.
So – ultimately, using social media and technology in a way that helps rather than harms us isn’t always easy. There is a balance that must be found. However, by being completely aware of the benefits and the potential disadvantages, technology can make us feel closer to one another — no matter the distance between us.
Alison Huff is the Editor-In-Chief of The Roots Of Loneliness Project, whose mission is to openly and honestly tackle the sometimes difficult and complex topic of loneliness in order to further and deepen understanding, growth, and empathy. The Roots Of Loneliness Project is dedicated to cataloging and exploring the topic of loneliness in every form and providing a thoughtful resource for those who are struggling with it themselves or trying to help others who are fighting their own battles with loneliness.