Look back over the last ten years of your life. How much has technology changed in those years? We've lived in our house nearly ten years and it caught me by surprise to realize that when we moved here, I didn't have a cell phone. Don’t get me wrong, I love the convenience of texting and internet at my fingertips. But sometimes we think we've connected with people because we've texted or emailed them. We’re at a point where we need to be sure we’re managing technology to connect with people.
The need for this can show up in a number of ways. Have you ever:
Worked on the laptop while your family watched a movie together?
Stopped to check Facebook on your phone while you were supposed to be helping your child with homework or reading aloud to him?
Texted someone else while you and your spouse were out to dinner?
I have. Without trying to create false guilt or rigid walls between areas of your life, it’s fair to acknowledge that this sort of technology distraction happens more than we like to admit.
When life becomes a never-ending stream of projects, tweets, posts and texts, our attention to relationships is bound to suffer. While Social Media affords us the chance to truly connect with people, it is one step removed from our in-person-with-skin-on relationships. Social Media IS real life, but it shouldn’t replace or damage in-person relations.
If you’re feeling a bit uncomfortable about the statistics of your tech connections versus your in-person connections, here are some ways to bring them back into harmony:
1. Proactively make a decision. Yes, everyone is busy and it seems hard to squeeze in time together. But you can make decisions that support your priorities, rather than feeling helpless. Make an unbreakable date with your spouse. Schedule a family activity. Decide to turn off the tech for a specified time with your local peeps.
2. Reach out and touch someone. This is something you can’t do online (those annoying Facebook pokes don’t count). We are human beings and were designed to need other people. We need physical touch: a hug, a pat on the back, a kiss. Even if you’re not a touchy-feely type, make a physical connection with your loved ones each day. Make a secret resolution and start simple, like a simple pat on the shoulder.
3. Connect by focusing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel listened to or cared for when someone avoids eye contact and seems distracted with something else while I talk. Give others the gift of focus. Stop what you’re doing, look into their eyes and pay attention. It will change the quality of your interaction with them.
4. Speak words that acknowledge their value. Rather than telling your kid “Good job,” how about “You really stuck with it and worked hard to clean off the table. High five!” Don’t go overboard or lie, but stay genuine with some enthusiasm and extra thought in your appreciation. They’ll feel that you noticed their efforts, and that breeds the desire to do more of the same.
5. Keep a journal. Connecting with your self is the first step in connecting with others. Working through attitudes, fears, problems and joys on paper can diffuse stress. Reflecting on relationships in your journal will equip you to close the book and care for others from a position of strength and awareness.
6. Laugh and have fun. When we get busy and stressed, fun is often the first thing to go. Or do things get busy and stressed because the fun went? Doing fun, relaxing things together is a great way to connect with people. Close the laptop, turn off the cell phone and go play miniature golf. Go to the library together. Browse an art museum. Choose your brand of fun and make sure it happens regularly.
7. Technology isn’t going anywhere and I don’t think it should. We just have to be aware of our tendency to get addicted to connecting with people online while neglecting people in the room. Managing technology to connect with people you see every day will help keep your marriage, family and friendships healthy. And it’s good for YOUR health and heart, too!
Charlotte Siems is a happy wife and mom of twelve who is a speaker, author and coach. After losing 100 pounds with T-Tapp, she became a Master T-Tapp Trainer, sharing her encouraging story with people all over the world. She has built a successful online business and writes about family life and T-Tapp at www.ThisLovelyPlace.com. Charlotte’s life experiences and training have uniquely qualified her to help others create a successful family and business.