Part three of “Relationship 101” Series. See part two here.
According to research done by Kathryn Zickuhr and Aaron Smith of Pew Internet Research, a whopping 70% of Americans have internet, compared to ten years ago, when only 16% of Americans had home internet. Additionally, in 2013 56% of Americans have smart phones with Internet access, and 46% have both smart phones and internet at home. And according to the US Census Population Clock, we have over 316 MILLION Americans. That number rises about every 12 seconds.
So, yeah… there are a lot of us on the interwebs.
The Internet can be a beautiful and wonderful thing. It keeps you connected to people across the world. It offers a wealth of seemingly unending information. It allows for creativity, ingenuity, and fun. It creates and connects cultures that otherwise would remain unconnected.
If it wasn’t for the Internet, I wouldn’t be able to talk to my boyfriend when he’s in Russia or Canada or South Carolina (he’s a globe-trotter, that one). Because of the Internet I’m able to work from home sometimes, write this blog, and have the misfortune of seeing headlines about the circus of immorality that is the VMA’s. Also, I am very thankful for Pinterest and foodnetwork.com for enabling me to cook, even after my dad gave up on passing on his culinary prowess. So most days, I love the Internet.
I just wanted to express my love and appreciate for the Internet before I take it apart. The Internet and I have a decent working relationship, and I’d hate for it to spurn me for giving it bad press. But alas, now I must begin.
Three Ways the Internet is Messing Up Your Love Life:
3. It takes your attention away from living in the present.
So, let’s be honest. How much time do you spend browsing Facebook? What about Pinterest? Instagram? Twitter? Candy Crush? If you’re anything like me, I feel tempted to check these things every spare moment I have: waiting in line at the grocery store, during my lunch break, during commercials, while I’m waiting for my food to cook… It’s fast, convenient,and immediate entertainment if you have a smart phone. If someone were to tally how much time I spend online, either on my computer or phone, it would be shameful.
Spending that much time on the Internet takes you away from what you are doing at that moment (with some exceptions of course). When you’re in a relationship, being in the moment with your significant other is of infinite importance.
One of my biggest pet peeves as a counselor is to see couples at a restaurant staring at their smart phones and not talking to each other. It’s a rule that I sometimes break myself, but when I do, I feel horrible and put my phone away. Unless I’m looking up Cornhusker football scores for my boyfriend, nothing online can be as important as listening to and being fully present with him. When we are together, we make a point to be together.
Now there comes a time when co-existing becomes important. When you’re married or in a LTR, you spend a lot of time together. If you were to spend all of that time gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes, no one would eat, work would go undone, and your Facebook friends would assume you fell off the face of the earth. So yes, sometimes you need a break to get online, either to get work done or have fun. That’s okay in moderate amounts. But if you’re spending more time online than talking to your partner when you’re together, then I hate to tell you, but you have another romantic partner and his/her name is Pinterest. Or Facebook.
Romantic relationships thrive on connectedness. Connectedness comes from spending time in front of your partner, looking at them, touching them, listening to them, and talking to them. You can’t do these things and also be online. It takes your focus away from your partner, and over time that can create distance, physically and/or emotionally. Distance is no bueno!
So when you’re with your partner, be with them. Turn your phone on silent, shut your laptop, and connect. Yes, you have to get your work done/dinner planned/status updated/news read. But set some time limits on the internet. Set aside a certain time everyday where you and your partner go Internet-free, and reconnect.
It keeps the love alive, and folks, that’s what makes the world go round.
2. Encourages impatience, and decreases our attention span, which then decreases our overall quality of communication.
I don’t know about you, but being online has given me the attention span of a goldfish. Just the other day my boyfriend commented that I was “all over the place” in my stream of consciousness. He was right! I get ADHD tendencies after being online too long. The Internet gives us immediate feedback. If Google takes longer than 3 seconds to find my results, I will complain at it, “Google! Quit slacking!” I can have a dozen different windows open, and jump from one to the other in a way that keeps me entertained for much longer than is good for me.
As a result, I sometimes find myself growing impatient when people talk to me. I’m thinking, “Can you give me the Cliff Notes version? How about a Buzzfeed format? Any graphics?” Either that, or something they say will trigger me to think of something I read/saw/pinned online and off my brain goes like a pinball machine. In either scenario, my listening skills go kaput, and I’m not in the present moment. Again, no bueno!
Good interpersonal communication habits come from good ol’ face-to-face time with people. Being a good listener requires your full, UNDIVIDED attention. It requires eye contact, reflection and feedback. You can’t be thinking of what you want to say while they’re talking. You have to make an effort to focus on their words, tone of voice and body language to get the full effect of what they are saying. This is vital if you want that person to feel heard.
In a romantic relationship, or any really, feeling heard makes your partner feel important and loved. It increases connection and improves the way you relate. Feeling heard can be healing and growth producing. It is vital to romance. Trust me.
So again, take time to disconnect from the Internet and give your brain a break. It may feel dizzying at first, and that’s normal. But allow your brain to function at the normal pace of life, and not at the insta-pace of the Internet. Let it slow down to life-speed, which is not high-speed. Practice breathing and being in the moment. This moment is the only one you truly have. We need to disconnect from the Internet to let ourselves truly have NOW. This will not only help you be a better listener/communicator, it will help you live life at the pace is was designed to be lived.
1. The number ONE way the internet is messing up your love life?
This one is so harmful and so pervasive, that it will get its own post in two weeks. So stayed tuned for Part Four of Relationships 101.