Is Your Cell Phone Making You Less Connected?

Group of friends using phonesAre you in a serious and committed relationship with your cell phone? Do you find yourself texting instead of talking, sending hugs instead of giving them, and going through withdrawals when you have to power down your device?

If so, you are looking for love in all the wrong places. It may seem hard to believe, but back in the ’70s, before cell phones, voicemail, and tweets, we had to actually talk to each other. Despite the Skype hype, there is nothing that comes close to an authentic, flesh-and-bones connection to another human being. To see, touch, smell, or hear someone is important for bonding. If you get a text from a good friend, it may make you smile or warm your heart, but it pales in comparison to seeing the twinkle in his or her eye.

Having been recently immersed in emotionally focused couples therapy training, I was reminded that we are all wired from birth for attachment. Yes, even those who seem like loners or are fiercely independent crave connection sometimes. We long for the gaze and attention of “the other.” When our hearts connect and we make eye contact, we feel alive and emotionally secure. Our bodies become less anxious, our heart rates slow, and we are attached. This is the ultimate gift of friends, loved ones, and our treasured pets.

So what happens when your most gratifying attachments have a place for a plug? When you long for your iPad Mini more than your good friend Ginny? You may be left feeling empty, isolated, or even depressed.

Many people learned early in childhood that connecting to other people is fraught with conflict and danger. So, it makes sense that they might prefer to plug into cyberspace. Technology shields us from being too vulnerable or exposed emotionally. No one can see you cry, feel your rage, or witness your shame.

Personally, I’d rather deal with most problems face-to-face. Not because I enjoy arguments or disagreement, but because I enjoy the closeness that often results from repairing conflict and would feel a loss if I couldn’t see someone’s face soften as we made up.

Vulnerability is the glue that bonds partners, friends, parents, siblings, and pets. By constantly turning toward and listening to our devices, we are neglecting people. I see mothers walking their babies and talking on their cell phones amid their little ones’ cries. I see spouses texting at dinner while their significant others wear a feeling of insignificance. I see kids learning their ABCs on an iPad at dinnertime instead of learning how to connect emotionally with their parents and siblings.

We need to practice getting better at picking up social cues, making eye contact, and managing uncomfortable silences. These skills are essential to any relationship. Humans are social animals, and that doesn’t mean having 600 friends on Facebook. If you want an actual flesh-and-bones relationship, Google may help you find one but it can’t help you keep it. So, disconnect from your devices and plug into your greatest power source: the human heart.

If this article spoke to you and you feel you are too connected to your devices, please look for a therapist to help you learn how to safely unplug.

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Ella

    January 19th, 2015 at 8:45 AM

    How is it possible that a device that supposedly keeps us all in touch with each other can actually drive us further apart? But it does! I find myself texting instead of calling, and I know that I am not the only one. I think that we all do it now because of the ease and convenience but there are things that get misinterpreted as a result, so I am trying to do better at actually talking to people again instead of only relying on text.

  • Annette

    January 19th, 2015 at 10:57 AM

    Nope not for me because this always gives my kids a way to touch base with me whereas before we wouldn’t have had that luxury

  • Henrietta

    January 19th, 2015 at 3:14 PM

    There is this part of me that wants to go off the grid because I am pretty sure that cell phones are taking away our capacity to have a real conversation with other people. We can’t spell anymore without autocorrect, we can’t remember anything if it isn’t in our phone calendars, and we feel like we have to be connected to the darn things at all times. Getting just a little out of control.

  • john p

    January 20th, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    There isn’t really anything that is telling us that we have to do this and yet we all feel now like we have lost touch with everyone if they don’t have a way to reach us immediately. I don’t think that this is being underconnected, to me it all feels like we are a little OVER connected in many ways. There is a thing about privacy and not being able to be tracked down that can really be very useful, but I think that most of us have forgotten just how good it can be to disappear from life for even a small while because now we are too afraid we will miss a status update or something !

  • Meredith

    January 20th, 2015 at 2:43 PM

    If this is the case then my boss hasn’t learned that yet!
    He thinks that any time he calls, I should pick up and be there.

  • Nia

    January 21st, 2015 at 3:42 AM

    Now I would say that I have less time talking to my kids because of their cell phones and not necessarily mine. There are times when it seems like they can’t function without having that phone grasped in their hand… which seems sad, but they are good kids and do all the right things so I don’t feel like I should punish them for that.

  • Addison

    January 21st, 2015 at 2:27 PM

    The sad part of all of this is that we pay all of this money every month for something that seems to be teaching us that communicating with each other face to face really is not all that important anymore. :(

  • Viv

    January 22nd, 2015 at 11:17 AM

    You know, I kind of see this as something that it is what you make it to be.

    It’s not that the cell phone is the root of all things evil, but you do have to admit that it has made it far more convenient to avoid people with the phone than we ever could without it.

    We can text, we can email, we can do all of these things that allow us to say stuff without ever really having to say it out loud to the one we intend to receive the message.

  • amy h.

    January 25th, 2015 at 5:57 AM

    I see all of these families out to dinner with each other and no one is talking to anyone at the table, but they are all looking at their phones, texting or playing games.
    That makes me pretty sad that we can’t even have a family dinner time together without constantly worrying about what is going on with someone else/

  • Elle

    January 26th, 2015 at 3:39 AM

    In many ways cell phones have made life so much easier- easier to get in touch with other people and lots easier to say what we have to say in short little sentences. But I also see the downside in that there are people who can no longer have a face to face conversation because they have become so dependent ion their phones to do all of the work for them, and that is kind of sad. It is almost like you can see the language dying in these upcoming generations because now there is something that will do all of that for them and we have become very dependent upon that.

  • william

    January 26th, 2015 at 10:50 AM

    not even a serious and committed relationship should have to be as expensive as the cell phone bill

  • Keith

    January 27th, 2015 at 2:50 PM

    You have to know though that this is the way of the world. I don’t think that we will ever go back to the days of polite written correspondence and nice conversations. I think that electronics have taken over our world and it is hard to see that there would be any other way again.

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