Are Gadgets Ruining Your Relationships?

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The Menninger Clinic asks if your technological gadget obsession is hurting your relationships...

While at first the idea is the sort of hysteria that ran rampant when TV was first introduced -- "Ak! It will be the end of the family unit!" -- the clinic raises some good points. (I'm sure those fearful of televisions did too; but I'm trying to stay focused here!)

Here's what the clinic's article says:

"We have become so accustomed to the luxuries of technology that we may be forgetting how to play, have personal connections and use coping skills in face-to-face interactions,” says John O'Neill, LCSW, LCDC, CSAT, director of addictions services for The Menninger Clinic. "We can become overloaded by technology and suffer consequences in our relationships.”

Can we become addicted to technology? That's debatable. But O'Neill says he sees parallels with the overuse of technology to dependency on substances such alcohol or drugs.

The following warning signs may indicate that you need to re-evaluate your use of technological devices.

* You'd rather text than talk face-to-face. You spend less time participating in personal activities or limit your time with friends and family to attend to your e-mail or return phone calls. You frequently miss appointments or are late because you got caught up on the Internet, checking e-mail or talking on your cell phone. You use text messages, email and voice mail when a face-to face interaction would be more appropriate.

* You can't leave home without it. You can't take a vacation without bringing four different charging devices for all your gadgets and gizmos. You can't seem to relax without constantly checking your e-mail, text messages or using your cell phone.

"When your cell phone ear piece becomes a permanent part of your wardrobe, that's a problem,” O'Neill says.

* Your family or friends ask you to stop, but you can't. You find you spend more time communicating on the phone or via e-mail than you do in person, for example, sending e-mail to your spouse while in the same home. The Internet becomes a more powerful draw than spending time with family or friends or other favorite activities. You become irritated when others complain about your use of technology.

* You miss important life moments. You pay more attention to your gadgets than what's happening in real life.

"Take the example of a father and son at a baseball game,” O'Neill says. "A homerun ball heads toward the stands and the father, talking on the cell phone, makes a half-hearted attempt at catching the ball. He does not catch the ball and the son appears dejected. The father never stops his phone call. What could have been a significant bonding moment was derailed by the father's inability to disconnect from technology.

* Even after experiencing consequences you continue your behavior. Getting in a car accident while on the cell phone or family members complaining about the lack of attention does not change your behavior.

"Observing people on a daily basis, it is easy to recognize how lost we have become in our own worlds,” O'Neill says. "We can learn to healthily use increasing technological advances if we set limits, develop rules and attend to our relationships. Ultimately, being present in relationships with family and friends should include both body and mind.”

So, kids, if any of this applies to you, stop saying you can put down the iPhone any time you want to -- just do it. Or else be the first to stand in line for one of those sex robots. Take that, Gizmodo! *wink*


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DeeDee is a wife and mother, a collector of kitsch and women's history, and a blogger on vintage living.

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