Are We Losing Our Real-Life Relationships With Each Other?

While we’re busy building digital ones, is our personal life suffering?

Phyllis Romero
May 30 · 6 min read
Image from Pixabay

Digital life has become a huge factor in many areas of our lives. We ‘connect’ with others through social media a thousand times a day. We’re doing more of our shopping online, and for many of us, we’re even working from home via the Internet.

I also know of a number of people where online gaming takes up a good portion of their time. Like so many others, I now watch my favorite television shows on my computer.

With so much of our time being spent virtually, I wondered if we’re losing our real-life relationships with each other? More importantly, are we abandoning our in-person relationships for digital ones?

I must admit, I would have little interaction with anyone if it weren’t for social media.

And, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s by choice. There are many reasons why. The fact that I’m chronically ill, at home without transportation, and have few people who come to visit is a huge factor.

I do have a dear friend who makes it her mission to stop by and see me once or twice a week. She’s an absolute Godsend. If it weren’t for her, I’d probably see about three other humans a week.

But, what about other people whose worlds are wide open for more interpersonal exchanges and relationships? How many of them are seeing a reduction in their real-life bonding with others?

Consumer Affairs reported that one study showed that the temptation to check our social media sites is one of the top dilemmas in our modern world. In fact, the study showed that it was comparable to addictions involving nicotine and sex.

Many of us would be hard-pressed to dispute this. If you think about it, how often does everyone check their smartphones when we gather together?

How often do we see drivers weaving in and out of a lane because their cell phone is in their hand? How often do we get frustrated because the person in front of us at the grocery store is holding things up because they won’t get off their cell phone?

Image from Pixabay

In the meantime, what’s happening with our personal relationships?

We all want to feel like we belong. We want to feel connected to others. For many, happiness and well-being depend on it. And at a first glance, social media and a digital life would seem to help fulfill this need.

I’ve been involved with different groups on social media — support groups for my illnesses, selling groups for my vintage jewelry hobby, and of course, writer’s groups. So, I’ve gotten a lot of virtual interaction from these, helping to fill in long stretches of time when I’m stuck at home.

But does a digital life really fulfill our need to connect?

How often do we pause our real-life moments because we have to capture the moment to share on Facebook or Instagram? When we do this, we lose connection with the people who are present in our life to share with people who are in our virtual or digital life.

And then we wait for responses from our social media connections.

Meanwhile, we aren’t responding to people who are right there in front of us and we lose precious time with them. We stop building memories because we’re recording them for others. Although, it’s good to have a record for ourselves too, and this is a point worth considering.

But, shouldn’t we savor every moment with those we love?

Image from Pixabay

Thankfully, I’m kind of an ‘in the moment’ kind of person. I rarely put real-life moments on pause to get moments to share on Facebook or other social media.

And sometimes I regret it later when I haven’t ‘captured the moment.’

But I console myself by realizing that I savored the moment and experienced every part of it.

Obsessing over posting all the time and getting responses isn’t a good thing.

Many people are caught up in constantly having a record of every minute of their life so they can post it social media. But it may be more damaging than you’d think.

For one, it reinforces an addictive behavior and our happiness hormones get confused.

Our brains feed off of the repetitive nature of connecting to iPhones and computers. It mistakenly tricks our brains and gets confused with the actual moment that gives us pleasure. And sadly, we look more to our online world for happiness instead of with the people we really love the most.

If we’re being honest, we can see that in the end, it’s not about connecting with someone through a screen, but it’s about the desire for positive reinforcement. It’s about ego.

Unfortunately, we’ve become a self-absorbed culture and preoccupied with how many likes and comments our posts are getting. And that really kind of makes us narcissistic if you think about it.

Studies show the mere presence of a mobile phone negatively impacts our relationships.

Scientific American highlights a series of studies done by the University of Essex. In one of the studies, several pairs of strangers were led to a private booth. They were instructed to talk about a somewhat intimate occurrence that had happened to them in the past month. They were told to talk about the event for 10 minutes.

Their own personal belongings were left in another area. Once in the booth, there were two chairs facing the other. Just outside of their visual field was a desk with a book and another item on it. Some desks randomly had phones on them and some didn’t.

On the desks that were assigned phones, a mobile phone was placed on a book. On the desks that had no phones, pocket notebooks were in their place.

Once the 10 minutes were up, the participants were asked to assess the quality of their encounter.

Participants who were in a booth that had a mobile phone reported a lower quality of interaction.

Now maybe it wasn’t the actual phone in the booth that interfered with the participants’ encounters. Maybe it made them think about their own mobile phones, which prompted their minds to wonder how many notifications they were missing.

It seems highly likely given the current societal attachment and fixation to mobile devices.

Think about it. How often can we go out to eat without at least one or two people joined at the palm with their cellphone?

As with everything else, moderation is the key.

I’ve recently had to retrain my own mind as I’ve delved deeper into working from home. It was easy to get distracted by Facebook messages, notifications, etc.

Something had to change for me to accomplish my work. Working from home is just like working away from home. An employer outside the home wouldn’t appreciate social networking taking up all of my time because it would be difficult to get work done.

I had to become my own employer because I was having problems completing my work projects. I now set time limits for social media. It’s the only way I can survive.

Image from Pixabay

And when visiting with others, I don’t even consider picking up my phone or computer. I would never want someone to feel slighted by that.

Social media and digital interactions can be a wonderful thing for people who rarely get out and see others. In fact, it can be a lifesaver.

But, when we’re sacrificing our in-person relationships for excessive time on our computers and iPhones, maybe we need to assess the situation. It’s easy for it to get out of hand, but if we learn to moderate things more, it can become more manageable. Then maybe our personal relationships wouldn’t suffer as much.

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Phyllis Romero

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Freelance Writer, Armchair Psychologist, Inspirational Thinker, 50-something author of an upcoming inspirational novel, nature lover, people lover.

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Medium's largest active publication, followed by +469K people. Follow to join our community.