The advent of digital technologies has changed the way we deal with the world. It is now an uncontested fact that technology is pervasive throughout our lives.  But how often do we assess its presence in our relationships, recognizing how it has impacted the way we interact with those closest to us?

Technology when used in a healthy way can help build stronger relations. It has been argued that these advancements have only enhanced our connectivity and modernized our daily lives. On taking a deeper look we see that texts, emails and social media posts have become the most accessible method for communicating with family and friends. It’s of great convenience to be able to communicate at the speed of light with people living miles away from you, in another corner of the planet.

It is undeniably true that we can both broaden our social horizons and enhance our closest relationships online. People use mobile apps to meet and reconnect with old friends and acquaintances, which further facilitates improvement in interpersonal relationships.

Flip side of the ‘golden’ coin

Now, let us look at the flip side of this so called ‘golden’ coin. In one sense, the planet has never been more interconnected, but this interconnectedness, though wonderful, hasn’t come without cost. Much is known about the dangers of Internet misuse. From adultery to merely surfing the web, the Internet is clearly the television of the 21st century, an electronic device that blurs our vision of reality.

We may enjoy social relationships using social media like Facebook or Twitter, for example, but the difference between these kinds of interactions and the interactions with people in the physical world is undoubtedly vast. Never have we been in contact with so many people, but connected with so few.

Sense of social isolation

We may feel that we’re connecting effectively with others via the Internet, but too much electronic-relating, paradoxically, engenders a sense of social isolation. It is also a common believe that using electronic media to make confrontations is easier. People are often apprehensive about face-to-face confrontations and they feel that doing so through social media is an easy way out.

Unfortunately, this also usually means that the transmission of those messages is not happening with as much empathy and instead, the message is being sent with a different intention, breeding more confusion and disappointment. Thus our ‘emotional invisibility’ in this virtual world of the Internet is a great cause of concern.

Judicious use of social media tools

Therefore, social media websites are wonderful tools but they need to be used judiciously. Here are a few simple ways in which you can do so-

  • Choose your network wisely: Before setting up an account, make sure you research about the network properly. Ask yourself why you should be using it and how is it going to make a difference in your daily life- most importantly, how is it going to help you?
  • Try to minimize online communication: If there is an issue to be discussed with a close one, and it is possible to do it in person, avoid escaping with it through online communication. Look upon it as a practice to handle communication maturely. This will definitely enhance your social skills and help you express your thoughts constructively.
  • Balance time on the internet with time spent with friends and family: It may seem too obvious to mention, but it feels qualitatively different to meet your loved ones in person, than to spend several hours engaged in back-and-forth email exchanges. Much of communication and feelings are lost in the latter. When a friend is going through a harsh time, nothing substitutes for a personal meeting. A comforting smile or a heartfelt hug is far more powerful than the most impressive emoticon, to lift the other person’s spirits.
  • Stay tuned to reality: Face it- you don’t need to check your Facebook or Twitter account every five minutes. The habit of checking your social media account too often can make you detached from reality. The ability to bring this habit under your control, without allowing it to control you, is the ‘make or break’ skill you need to learn. Try to fully absorb yourself in your surroundings rather than getting distracted by the pings in your pocket. This will improve your productivity and make your life more colorful.