For the majority of us, technology has become an all-too-present element in our daily lives. Our smartphones’ beeps or our computers’ notification sounds are familiar interruptions that occur so many times during the day and immediately catch our attention, even if we are talking or interacting with somebody else. Technoference refers to everyday intrusions in the interaction or time spent together with our partner or spouse that are caused by technology.
Obviously, incorporating technology into our lives is generally very useful. For people in romantic relationships, technology allows them to easily communicate during the day and reach out to each other quickly if something wrong happens. However, if our partner prioritises using technology over giving us their full attention – either by checking emails or messages over lunch or by answering work calls on a date night – we might start feeling frustrated and neglected. We might feel that our relationship is threatened and may respond by withdrawing or being verbally aggressive. This can have long-term effects too.
Technoferences affect our relationships and personal wellbeing by creating conflict between partners. If this conflict isn’t handled well, partners can develop negative views of each other and of the relationship in general, which can also affect their mental health.
A recent study from 2016 surveyed 143 women who were either married or cohabited with their partners. The research showed some troublesome findings:
- 62% of their participants reported that technology interfered in their free time as a couple at least once a day.
- 35% of the study’s participants reported the same about conversations with their partners.
- 33% of the study’s participants reported the same about mealtimes with their partners.
I know what you might be thinking: “Well, this just means we just use technology less”. However, it is not that straightforward. Studies have shown that it’s not really about the frequency of technology use, but rather whether the two partners view technology use as being problematic or not. In other words, it is our perception of technology use, and technology use itself that can lead to conflicts in our relationship.
What can we do about it?
Research advises that couples should:
- Have an open and honest discussion about how and why technology can be a source of conflict in their relationship. For example, if you are bothered by the fact that your partner is scrolling through Instagram while you’re watching a movie together, communicate that to him/her.
- Talk about ways in which they can reduce the negative feelings of conflict as both partners continue using technology in their lives. For example, agree that you would dedicate 30 minutes per day to checking emails and try to resist the urge to check them outside that period of time, or make a “silent devices” rule while eating lunch together.
All in all, it is entirely up to us how we let technology affect our relationships and personal wellbeing. Therefore, being aware of technoferences and their effects is the first step to building a healthier and more satisfying relationships!
If you feeling that technoference is affecting your relationship and would like to speak to a professional, book an appointment here.
Alexandra Trașcă is an intern with Willingness and an undergraduate Psychology student atBabeș-Bolyai University in Romania.
Coyne, S. M., Busby, D., Bushman, B. J., Gentile, D. A., Ridge, R., & Stockdale, L. (2012). Gaming in the game of love: Effects of video games on conflict in couples. Family Relations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies, 61, 388 –396. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2012.00712.x McDaniel, B. T. & Coyne, S. M. (2016). “Technoference”: The interference of technology in couple relationships and implications for women’s personal and relational well-being. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 5, 85-98.