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7 Tips to Better Connect With Loved Ones In a Technological World

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My wife and I were relaxing at home the other night when I looked over and realized that both of us were paying more attention to our cell phones and iPads than to each other. This doesn’t happen too much, but it really made me think.

“Look at us, what are we doing!?” I asked my wife. We were sitting right next to each other, yet we weren’t even speaking to each other.

We stopped what we were doing, set our devices aside and began connecting with each other. Whatever was happening on our electronics could wait.

The above scenario happens so many times a day across the world. Researchers have found that in this technology-driven society, we are no longer seeking out face-to-face communication. The convenience of the Internet and mobile devices has overtaken the need to engage in person. If we don’t try to connect with someone in a personal way, we will eventually lose the ability to become close and intimate with others.

Although technology has several benefits and connects us in some ways, many people are getting too attached and relying heavily on texting and social media as their primary means of communication. Despite the “social” in social media, people are becoming less personal than they used to be.

All of this got me thinking about some simple tips that have proven to help us better connect with our loved ones.

Q1: How can I set aside electronic free time?

A:You and your partner should agree to set aside some time, even if it’s just 5 or 10 minutes every day, to actually talk and listen to one another. During this time, it’s important to turn off your personal electronic devices (PEDs) and set them out of sight so you are not distracted by things like email, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, or other social media.

This shows your partner that you care enough about them to remove distractions.

The same applies when you are out to lunch with a friend or coworker. Ditch the phone, turn it off, or put it on silent or airplane mode so you can focus your full attention on actually conversing.

Of course, if you’re a medical professional or if you’re a patient waiting to hear from your doctor, there are exceptions.

When you do this, you are letting your company know that they are truly worthy of your full and undivided attention; that you are open to connecting and sharing your time together; and most important, that you care. It also gives you a chance to mentally break from the stress of the online world and enjoy the gift of conversation with the person across from you!

Tip: For at least 10 minutes a day, make time where you and your partner give your PEDs a time out. Instead devote that time to each other. It’s just a few minutes a day, but even just a small window of time can help you connect with your loved one.

Q2: Is it ok to deal with conflicts over the phone?

A: Based on my own personal experience as well as recent research, the short answer is no. Electronic devices cannot take the place of in-person contact.

When you’re actually in the same room as your partner, you notice much more. You see their face. Their body language. The subtle looks. Even their breathing patterns. These things and many more help you better understand what someone means and where they are coming from, things that you simply can’t get via texting or messaging someone.

Emoticons are a little helpful, but still don’t fully express what we mean to say. If there is physical distance between you and it’s urgent, pick up the phone, FaceTime or Skype to actually hear and see each other. This will help you hear pauses and emotion in their voice, and see important visual cues.

Tip: Agree with one another that you will strive to handle any issues in person.

Q3: How can my phone affect my sex life?

A: There are so many times where one member of a couple has told me that they feel that the presence of a cell phone or other PED has harmed their sex life. Once again, research supports that using mobile devices in the bedroom hurts the sex life of many couples.

Ask yourself, “Is it more important to me to be intimate with my partner or to hold this electronic gadget in my hand?”

Intimacy doesn’t always have to be just sex. It also applies to things like cuddling before you go to bed or when you wake up in the morning.

Tip: Put your phone on airplane mode or silent when you’re in the bedroom at night, unless you’re a nurse or doctor on call.

Q4: Is it bad to break up with someone over text?

A: I’m sure most of us have experienced this or have friends this happened to. Most people say breaking up via text isn’t acceptable when polled, but some still do it.

Some break up over text out of fear of confrontation, avoidance, anger, or just bad manners. But, it shouldn’t be done.

Tip: Even if you haven’t been dating very long, show some respect and break up in person. It helps provide closure for both people in the relationship by seeing and hearing about the motivation and feelings about the relationships. Breaking up via text, email, or suddenly changing your Facebook status without any warning for your now ex-partner, paves the way for resentment. It also makes you look bad. Really bad.

You may even find that sharing your feelings about the breakup can help you and your partner move forward in a healthy way.

Q5: How often should I call someone?

A: This question applies to couples, family, friends, colleagues and fellow students who physically are apart. If it’s been a while since you spoke with someone, call him or her to catch up. Texting and messaging can help with staying in contact, but like I mentioned earlier, it’s more difficult to pick up on clues and nuances to how the person is really doing. Some things just can’t be conveyed over written word.

Tip: I make an effort to call at least one person a week whom I haven’t seen or talked with in some time. These calls result in some wonderful conversations taking place that probably could never have happened via text or social media. In addition, I make it a point to see people in person on a regular basis.

Q6: Is communicating with someone over the Internet enough? When should we get together in person?

A: When you’re connected with friends, family and significant others on so many social media sites, it can be easier to interact with someone’s social sites rather than the actual person. Yes, clicking the “Like” button lets them know that you are around and interested enough to see what’s happening in their life but, again, it’s not the same as direct personal contact.

Maybe distance keeps you apart, but what if it’s a friend who lives in the same town or is even your neighbor? You may know what they are up to from their social feeds, but when was the last time you grabbed coffee or lunch and actually talked? Again, it’s easier to click “Like” and send a smiley face emoji, easier to convey sorrow for something with a sad face emoji without having to go through the potential discomfort of seeing the other person truly upset.

It may be easier to trust what someone is saying online, but it’s also easier to keep people at an arm’s length when we are experiencing pain and aren’t comfortable being vulnerable in person.

Tip: I make it a point to get together with at least one or two people every few weeks so that we can really catch up and talk. When I do this, the people I love in my life get the message that they are important for me to actually see and spend time with in person!

Q7: Should I stay away from all electronics?

A: There will always be those moments when there is an urgent situation and you must rely on technology. Maybe you’re planning your wedding and you need to spend time going over details with your wedding planner who can only talk tonight. Or maybe you have a big sales deal closing by tomorrow and you need to review final contract details.

Hey, I get it. Life happens.

Tip: What I’m trying to get across is that these situations need to be the exceptions and not the rule. Personal electronic devices can be very valuable. I certainly enjoy using them. Just don’t let them take over your relationships. You and the important people in your life deserve real connection: personal, human, face-to-face connection.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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