This is the second of a three-part series.  Read part one and part three.

May 2012

I wouldn’t call it a “love-hate” relationship.  Perhaps it’s “love-fear.”

On one hand, we love our new technology—our smartphones, our iPads, our laptops. We love the connection these devices give us to information and to people.

Yet many of us also fear what this new technology can do to people. We’ve seen how it can dominate their lives and sabotage their relationships.

When I wrote of these sweeping changes in my last column, it seemed to touch a nerve. “These mobile devices can take over your life,” wrote one reader in an email. Another said, “I understand technology has its advantages, but we are being ruled by the technology rather than using it as a tool.”

Another wrote, “It’s too easy to disconnect using technology.  We all know of the people who check out from life by absorbing themselves in TV.  Now we have the internet and cell phones and gaming systems to draw them further into non-reality but yet sooth them with the illusion of being connected or productive somehow.”

Some readers told sad stories about the growing isolation in their marriages:

  • “I’m usually the spouse waiting for my husband to get off the cell, iPad, instagram, text messaging, Facebook, or some other game that has him hooked. I’m tired of having my conversations through text messages and would enjoy an old-fashioned conversation face to face. But the truth is we barely have anything to say to each other anymore.”
  • “My husband and I have struggled for the last 25 years of our marriage with conversation, but what has happened now is Facebook has taken over.  If dinner isn’t ready when he comes home, he’s on Facebook until it is.  Every morning he gets up and hits Facebook to see who’s been on.  Sadly he does not see it as an issue.  And I fear I am not alone in this.”
  • “I am one of those people at the restaurant with her spouse, waiting and feeling lonely. My husband is always looking at his phone, checking his email or his bank account, his Facebook, and his texts. I just sit waiting and thinking to myself, ‘Why am I not good enough for him? Why does he have to be entertained by everyone and everything else?’ It deeply depresses me and he just cannot understand my point of view.”

And many readers expressed their concern about the effects on the next generation.  “Technology drives me crazy,” one said.  “We had to limit our daughter’s texting as she was sending more than 12,000 a month and they were completely senseless.”

Others wrote:

  • “I have a 16-year-old son who has no idea how to have a conversation with a girl. He can text all night long, but take that privilege away and he is lost.”
  • “Coworkers and I talk all the time about how this new generation has no idea how to carry on a conversation.”
  • “Our young people in society may be technologically savvier than the prior generations, but they are also socially illiterate when it comes to common courtesy and manners.”

And then there was the man who told about his son and girlfriend who “met, fell in love, and have maintained a long distance relationship almost exclusively through texting.”  During their six-month relationship they’ve only seen each other three times.  “I keep wondering if you can really know someone with such poor communication,” he wrote.  “I just see no way this could really prepare them to do life together.”

Some people gravitate toward texting or Twitter for communication just as they did years ago toward email—it’s simpler, faster, easier.  What they don’t realize is that too much is lost in those mediums—emotion, facial expressions, tone of voice, and much more.

One woman wrote about problems in her marriage:  “… many arguments occur because of something that was texted and was misunderstood by one of us.  Today my husband texted me after refusing to have a conversation last night. I thought the tone of his text was ugly and didn’t respond.  Later he texted me asking why I didn’t respond and I said I would rather talk than text because texting can be misunderstood. His response was ‘I enjoy texting. Speak message. Little emotion. Can get right to point.’”

What a classic quote: “I enjoy texting. Speak message. Little emotion. Can get right to point.”  The problem is that real relationships require real conversation and real emotion.

“When we text, email, Facebook, and the like, we lose a vital piece of relationships: the emotional connection,” wrote another reader.  “Without the sound of our voices, the body language, the touch, we as humans lose what God intended to be a vital part of how we are supposed to relate and a vital part of how we are supposed to receive love and be in communion with others.”

Thank you for your thoughtful emails.  I’ll quote from them again in two weeks when Marriage Memo returns (after a break for Memorial Day).  In that final article in the series I will share the family rules many of you are implementing to control technology and encourage face-to-face relationships.

Click here to read emails from our readers on this issue.

Copyright © 2012 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.