• Rebecca Watts

Is Technology the end of real relationships

Human interaction is a fundamental part of human nature, but is our fixation on technology changing how we interact and effecting our mental health?

Our need for interaction

Humans are essentially social beings. This may have originally developed due to necessity - dependance and cooperation for survival, but today that need to connect and interact is much more of an emotional need.

Science has for years shown that social interaction is important for good health and longevity. Social interaction where people can express feelings, emotions, share problems is beneficial to health, it helps with stress, loneliness, depression, self confidence, encouragement, motivation, addiction, trauma, personal difficulties....

Social support has also been shown to have positive effects on the immune system too.

People who lack human interaction and contact have been shown to more likely suffer from stress ad inflammation, both having a fundamental effect on every system in the body, including our brain.

What is human interaction

Human interaction can come in many forms just presence (someone physically being there), touch, verbal and non verbal communication.

When we think communication, we think of speaking with each other, but communication is much more than just words. Much of what we portray and / or communicate comes from our tone, pitch, our facial expressions, gestures, posture, eye contact, physical contact / space.

Although sometimes criticised, Albert Mehrabian's 7-38-55 Rule of Personal Communication is often expressed as how communication is made up.

  • Words (the literal meaning) account for 7% of the overall message

  • Tone of voice accounts for 38% of the overall message

  • Body Language accounts for 55% of the overall message

Technology - are we losing human interaction?

Our increasing use of communicating through technology by email, text, social media is changing the way we interact with each other. On one hand we can stay in touch with people far away, we can meet new people, we can communicate in difficult circumstances when we feel we can't face to face, but is this relatively new and ever increasing in popularity way to communicate mean are we losing 93% of vital interaction / communication?

When we text or share, read on social media, we are reading the written word. We cannot see the facial expressions, body language of that person, we cannot hear their emotions in their voice, we cannot feel the atmosphere that their words are creating.

These forms of communication helps us interpret their words, understanding their intent, their genuineness.

- How many times have you (or someone of you) taken offence to a text or email when no offence was intended?

- How many times have you stressed over a text from the opposite text as you just can't figure out their interest?

This is because of the lack of non verbal communications.

Our own reactions, emotions and connections often come from these non verbal communications. is the lack of them throwing out our own emotional balance? Can we use our intuition without them?

Whether we believe that non verbal communication is 93% or less, is the lack of it having a detrimental effect on our own emotions, connections, physical and mental health? Even if it is 50%, that means that when we choose to text, email, connect through social media, we are missing out on a big and integral part of communication and human interaction.

Social skills

There are many that argue that due to the use of technology for communication, that children today are losing out on crucial development of social skills. Our ability to process emotional cues is associated with personal, social and academic success. These cues are much stronger when communicating face to face, so are children missing out on crucial development or is this just changing, evolving?

Our emotional connections

Our mental health can be dependant on our emotional connections with people. As mentioned it is a fundamental part of human nature. If for much of our communications we are unable to process emotional cues or are incorrectly processing emotional cues, are we setting ourself up for insecurities, anxiety, depression?

Developing real relationships

If technology is effecting our connections, relationships with people and our own emotions, intuition and mental health, the answer isn't throwing your phone away.

We need to work on building real relationships - spending time with people (without your mobile phone in your hand) - laughing, talking, seeing, feeling, doing. Connecting. Understand how their warmth, their actions, their persona - effects your emotions, your feelings and your interpretation of their words. The written word through text, email, social media can supplement your real relationships, allow you to stay in touch when you can't face to face, allow you to visually see what they see.

Supplement being the important word here - it should never replace real relationships.