And How to Fix It . . .
Although digital communication has created some incredible opportunities, both in business and relationships (thinking about long-distance relationships and the ability to stay connected more easily), they can also increase both the potential and the perception of problems in your relationships.
When the mobile phone morphed from a means of voice communication to checking email, sending pictures and surfing the Internet, the potential for people who may not have otherwise thought about cheating, is suddenly just a finger click away on a device that isn’t far from you at any one time.
Of course there are positive ways to use digital communication with your boyfriend, siblings or children – but with every positive also comes a negative – or maybe a challenge.
I haven’t faced all these challenges, but I have faced most. And, while there are significant challenges to using mobile devices to stay in touch, I believe on the whole they can be a positive experience.
What I’ve found is that to BE a positive experience, I have to address the challenges directly. No hiding behind an excuse, or avoiding a situation. Like all challenges or obstacles, when you bring them out into the light, you have a better chance of overriding the issue and squashing it before that little molehill turns into a mountain you can’t climb.
I’d suggest the same in any circumstance – address the issue head on. You may be nervous that the conversation may end in a broken relationship, but what is the alternative? Would you rather be quietly concerned, jealous, sad or envious – or would you rather know exactly what is happening between yourself and your boyfriend/sibling/child?
And, truth be told, unless you are not willing to make a compromise or two it’s highly unlikely an honest conversation will destroy your relationship. . . . . UNLESS of course the relationship wasn’t based on honesty in the first place.
Rift 1: Trust and Jealousy
Using a mobile device opens a multitude of opportunities to find people to meet your needs. Whether you are searching for an online confidant to vent about your children or your boyfriend, or for a boyfriend – it’s all possible online.
The trouble occurs when you’re already in a relationship and start looking for a new one before, either giving the one you’re in your full attention, or ending it. Both men and women are guilty and fully aware of their behavior or the release of information from Ashley Madison wouldn’t have created such a stir.
Don’t wait until you can’t stand knowing if your boyfriend is talking to someone new or your child is involved with a friend you don’t feel is suitable. Take the reins and ask the hard questions. You might not like the answers – but without the answers you can’t address the problem.
You can ask to read your child’s text messages without feeling as if you’re the wicked stepmother. The safety and well-being of your children are your responsibility. They won’t like having their privacy invaded, and you won’t like feeling like a snoop – but if the rules are set early and you briefly scan through their messages for keywords that catch your eye, you’ll both be satisfied.
The same is true for your boyfriend. He should understand your need to learn to trust his behavior – but you must understand that this cuts both ways and be prepared to share your phone with him as well.
Rift 2: Miscommunication
No matter how many emojis you use in your text messages, there will be times you won’t understand what your child sent or your message to your boyfriend comes across like you’re a harpy.
Communicating over text doesn’t allow the recipient to read your body language or listen to the tone in your voice. Talk about this!
Let your friends and family know that if they are offended by something you said you want them to tell you immediately – the likelihood is that you didn’t mean it the way they took it. And, if you did mean it that way – talking with them gives you both the opportunity to air your differences.
Rift 3: Lack of Communication
No matter how many times the hero and heroine in the movie understand what the other means by a “look,” don’t expect that from your children, friends or boyfriend. My mom had a “look” that could fry my sister and me from across a room. I’m sure she worked for several years to perfect it. We KNEW what she wanted without saying a word.
The look meant we’d done something wrong – it didn’t communicate a complex thought or desire for an action. It was simple and clear. STOP IT!
On the other hand, men are usually not that perceptive. My daughters get me and my sons don’t. Both girls got the look – not that they obeyed it! – and both boys were clueless.
So, before you transmit your digital or visual message, remember – the other person just might not be able to read your language. You may need to talk, using words and body language, for someone to finally understand.
Rift 4: Social Media Occupies More Time Than the Real World
Living in a world where most people have their phone in hand at all times, checking social media and answering text messages as if their life depended upon it, it’s no wonder that you may feel distant from the person sitting across the table from you.
I was talking to a friend the other day at church. He picked up his cell phone and started going through his social media account – I could SEE what he was doing. I calmly said, “I can see you’re busy right now. We can talk later.” If my sons start to answer text messages in the middle of a conversation, I stop talking and leave the room.
My time and energy are worth it. I’m worth it.
When you value your own time and energy, and demand others respect you, you’ll find you connect with them on a deeper level. Children learn mostly through face-to-face interactions with their parents – not by communicating with them on social media or their smart phone. So this means you too! When you’re talking with your kids, put the phone down.
Rift 5: Increases Your Negative Feelings
Whether you want it to or not, spending time on social media or surfing the Net will increase your negative feelings about yourself and your relationships with others. Relationships you build online don’t develop the trust you need to have for true connection with another person.
During a conversation with a real person you SEE their minute facial changes, body language, and hear the changes in tone. This helps develop that trust, empathy and understanding with another person.
A study from the University of Michigan found that people who spent time on social sites like Facebook, felt worse the more they used it. Researchers theorized it was because you compare yourself and your life to others online who post pictures about their “perfect” life.
The positive element from this study was that moving to a face-to-face interaction or talking with someone on the phone could lift your spirits again.
There are both positive and negative consequences from using digital media. Although it has improved productivity, creativity and opportunity – like all good things – you must use it in moderation.