Opinion: Modern Love

I can't pay attention to you and my phone


Lily Hefner, Social Media Coordinator

This generation uses technology in ways that were previously unimaginable. Rather than carefully composing our prose on a typewriter, we type with abandon, knowing full well that our mistakes will be caught with a squiggly red line and corrected by the all-knowing auto-correct. Instead of passing notes while the teacher isn’t looking, we sneak a Snapchat or two during class.

In fact, we’ve created a whole culture surrounding Snapchat. How is that a thing? I mean, come on, who would’ve thought that, “getting left on read,” would be enough to end relationships or that tracking someone’s location would be seen common practice rather than a reason for a restraining order?

Finding that special someone is already at the forefront of many teens’ brains, but when that person is in your pocket, the obsession over what they think of you might just become too much to handle. According to a study conducted by NBC News titled, “State of Kindness Poll,” 70 percent of people say that technology is weakening relationships. The use of technology in today’s relationships is stunting authenticity and creating a way for them to become fabricated images for others to be jealous of.

When people get into disagreements, it’s so much easier to completely go off over the phone because there is no reaction for you to respond to. We are able to say things we would never say to someone’s face. Nonverbal communication is key to building relationships. According to Psychology Today, 40 percent of in-person communication is through non-verbals. When we rely so much on technology, our non-verbal communication is completely absent, leaving us with only a fraction of what we need to communicate successfully with each other. Our disagreements become so much more escalated when over the phone. If we talked out our issues in person, we would be able to work out the problem more effectively because we feel the need to work things out when we can see the person in front of us.

The internet and texting also gives a way to completely ignore each other with little to no consequence. If we see a message that we don’t want to talk about or deal with at the moment, nothing is stopping us from ignoring that stressor until we see it is a good time to handle it, or maybe never. We all do it, but is it really doing anything positive for ourselves or others? Maybe if we had a stronger ability to talk out our issues with the person sitting two feet away from us, we wouldn’t be so scared to face those conversations that make us so uncomfortable.

Has it come to the point where online relationships have become a routine or formula on how it’s supposed to go? It seems like it’s always the same to me. You start talking over some sort of social media and you keep asking the usual questions of, “How was your day?” and “What’s your favorite color?” and other generic topics of conversation. Maybe a little flirting takes place, such as sliding up on a Snapchat story. Then, once the initial attraction is established, you possibly hang out, maybe FaceTime and then what? You text them after saying how you had such a great time, when really the relationship you imagined from your texts was greater than when you hung out and the way you talk in person just wasn’t the same. It can be hard to have the same flow of conversation when you aren’t able to edit what you say to a person or ask your friends what the perfect thing to say would be.

If you want an authentic relationship, you have to be real with someone without the help of technology, because when  you reach age 80, do you think you’ll still Snapchat each other why you’re mad or how your day was?

We’ve all been in a situation where you’re out doing something with your significant other and you have this compulsion to take a picture just so that all of your followers know that you two went to the pumpkin patch, or the movies and get upset when the pictures don’t turn out well because that means you can’t post them.

Those desperate to prove the legitimacy of a relationship fill their social media accounts with perfectly posed, heavily edited date-night pictures, Snaps from dances or three-month anniversary shoutouts.

How absurd is it that what used to be homemade presents and love letters for your significant other turned into long paragraphs on Instagram for the whole world to see? I am guilty of it myself, go check my Instagram. But when I really think about the sincerity behind my gesture, I can tell you I just posted those anniversary pictures so that everyone else would know just how long we’ve been together.

It’s impossible to actually get to know someone for real and have a strong relationship if the time we spend together is on our phones, not paying attention to each other.

The attention we give to our phones is taking the needed attention away from our relationships. There is really no point in spending time together if we’re just going to isolate ourselves by being absorbed into our screens. If we are going to produce long-lasting, meaningful relationships, we need to create rules for time to be spent away from our phones, actually focusing on each other.

All of these things we know to be true can be something to poke fun of, but seriously, if we don’t acknowledge that the technology we use may be stunting our relationships, we may lose the special connection that comes from those in-person deep talks. We need put away from our phones, pay attention to our significant others and have the courage to talk about the hard stuff.