The Information Age has swiftly altered our behaviour in a professional and personal capacity. While progress in email, instant messaging, and social media were essentially created to improve communication, they now threaten to remove vital features of how we relate to one another and, ultimately, connect. From a certain standpoint, our world has never been more interconnected but, this hasn’t come without a major cost.

We at Mind and Body Counseling Associates, Reno, Nevada, have identified four areas in which technology has a negative effect on relationships:

#1 Intimacy

Maintaining a relationship in our day and age is already a challenge without the added distraction of technology. A 2014 Pew Research Center poll stipulated that one in four cell phone owners in relationships found their partner to be too distracted by their cell phone.

A further issue caused by technology is the temptation to resort to using instant message, or the like, for confrontation. However, while it is far easier to confront someone over a text message, the risk for miscommunication increases tenfold.

#2 Distraction

As mentioned in point one, technology is a massive distraction. According to a 2015 poll of 453 adults in the US, half of all respondents admitted to being distracted by their phones while spending time with their spouse. What’s also interesting to note is that the same amount of time that, just a few years ago, may have been regarded as an online addiction, is now considered normal cell phone use.

Even when you don’t have your cell phone on you, it can be considered a distraction. According to a 2014 study, users who admitted to spending a substantial amount of time on their cell phones experienced heightened levels of anxiety, when separated from their cell phones, after only 10 minutes.

#3 Depression

Increased time spent on social media has also been proven to have a negative impact on your mental health. A recent study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, in particular, found this to be true. Moreover, the report mentioned a decline in a person’s mood, sense of well-being, and life fulfilment after engaging with social media. This was found to be linked to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), which the study showed to be exaggerated by social media use.

#4 Isolation

An online addiction, just like any addiction, tends to have a negative effect on the amount and quality of relationships with others. While you may enjoy online relationships, these remain fundamentally different to interacting with people in the physical world. What’s more, when we find ourselves substituting real relationships with people in our vicinity for electronic relationships, a sense of social isolation can be the result.

The Solution

According to Ohio counsellor Jessica Wade, MAMFT, LPCC, the emotional connections created through body language, tone of voice, and facial expression are fundamental to relationships and cannot be replicated by technology.

Experts recommend allocating certain times of the day to be without your cellphone and, instead, fully present with your spouse. However, if the situation has already spiralled, you and your partner may need to seek therapy.