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How social media and technology destroy relationships

Posted Feb 16 2010 6:34pm

I studied Communication (along with Psychology & Professional Writing) back in college (in the 90s) when email was the main communication challenge. Answering machinescall waitingbeepers (yeahI knowI had one) were quickly becoming obsolete and online miss-communication was starting to get in the way of relationshipsboth in personal lives and in business.

Imagine a time when husbands and wives picked up the phone to chat about plans for dinneror moms called their girlfriend next door to arrange play dates for their kids. Do you remember what it was like to have  one computer to shareone phone for the entire householdand perhaps even one email address for the whole family?

Todaythings are much different. We now have several tools in which to miss-communicate with the people in our lives and with many different devices.

If we’re not carefulthese devices could actually ruin the relationships in our lives that we’re trying (in so many ways) to maintain.

Before you confuse me with someone who doesn’t use social media or technology on a regular basisI need to step back to say that I know social media and technology canwhen used correctlyenhance relationships. I wouldhoweverargue that most of us are still trying to figure out the rules and boundaries within our relationships since each is so unique.

Not to change the subject (you’ll see the correlation soonhopefully)but let’s also look back at the book (also from the mid-90s) called“The Rules.” At the time it was releasedit was pretty controversial andadmittedlyI never did read it but I have read about it and people’s complaints and general dislike for the ideas brought about by the authors. From my understandingthese so-called ‘rules’ were meant for women and provided guidelines to follow in order for them to be successful in love by learning how to manipulate men and not appear so available (the classic hard-to-get scenario).

The only thing that I do comprehend about this book (againnot having read the book)is the title and the idea that relationships require rules in order for them to be successful. With established guidelineseveryone is on the same page from the beginnings.

I believe most of our relationships start without having established rules or boundaries and perhaps some unwritten rules that only one partner is aware of. That spells trouble and I cannot emphasize how destructive these unwritten (or not discussed) rules can be. This is why I heartily agree with those who create pre-nuptial agreements. After allthe paperwork one goes through in a divorce would not be nearly as complex if there were written understandings and rules established going into the relationship. But I digress…

I do think toowe run the risk of taking value away from our own time when we make ourselves available in many different ways (business cards now have long lists of ways to connect with one another without  Hours of Operation).

With social media and technology todayThe Rules keep changing. Who makes up the rules when it comes to how often you should contact the other or at what time of day or night? Text messagesemailphone callsinstant messagesDirect MessagesTwitter and other social media tools all are meant to enhance relationships. But againif no rules have been establishedhow exactly can they benefit us?

In personal relationshipsrules do need to be established. Everyone should have an equal say. What time is too late to text you? Or too early? How many emails can I send to you at work before your boss starts questioning your loyalty? How long do I wait after I send an email before I can legitimately assume you’re ignoring my message?

Many of us get worked upanxious and are hyper-aware of our phone or the time with every ideathought or question that’s thrown out there. How do we knowfor surethat the intended party is actually receiving that message? Or interpreting it correctly?

A few weeks agomy sister sent me a text asking me for my new address. I immediately responded and  then didn’t hear back from her. I ASSUMED that she received my response. A few days after that initial textshe sent anotherasking the same question. Have you ever received a duplicate text message in the past? Wouldn’t it be safe to say that the same number of texts also disappear?

I wasn’t thinking about that possibility at the time soagainI responded right away with my addressthis timegetting a little annoyed at her for asking me the same question twice. No one likes having to repeat themselves. Had either one of us actually picked up the phoneI would’ve realized that she had not received either of my responses and that she was getting annoyed with mefor having ignored her. Twice.

The third time she asked for my address I just about lost it.  I was in the middle of a session with a client and checked my phone (habit) when he got up to use the restroom. I sent my address again while explaining to my client what was going on since I was typing away when he returned. By the time the session with my client endedI looked at my phone again to find her last text saying“Never mind. I got it from Mom.”

I called her that nightwanting to finally get down to the bottom of it. She had received my other text messagesjust not the three with my address. Strangeright? We were both annoyed with the other for no good reason and all of it would’ve easily have been cleared up with a phone callor even an email.

While sharing this story with my clients and friendssimilar stories have come up. Some find it annoying that their spouse doesn’t respond to their texts right away or their boyfriend/girlfriend texts too often. Others find it strange that people don’t respond to their emails on the same day or respond using another method to communicate other than where the conversation originated. Long story shortthere have been no rules established in these relationships (with regard to communication).

Most of us go through our day thinking that the way we use technology and social media are being used in the same wayor should be used in the same way. #Fail

With each relationship I have establishedI have taken the time to re-evaluate the ways in which I  communicate.  The connectioninteractionand the follow-up (especially when it comes to business) are vital to enhancing any partnership.

NowI will make it a point to ask more questions. How do you prefer to communicate? What’s the best way to reach you? What’s the best time to call? What do you mean you’re not on Twitter?

Happy Healthy Hip Parenting
Peace Begins in the Home

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