4 Ways the Digital Landscape is Affecting our Relationships

So I’ve been working in the world of social media for about seven years now – it’s not a constant thing but I certainly feel conflicted from time to time when it comes to my line of work. Not only are we spending more time in front of our screens in general (most adults are spending 12 hours a day consuming media) but we are choosing to explore a lot of our relationships digitally vs. having real, live, face-to-face interactions. The anthropologist in me would like to point out that we (as a species) were not necessarily built for this type of interaction – but instead, we built this kind of communication to satisfy some of our most primitive needs. Essentially, we figured out a way to get convenient satisfaction via digital and social interactions – quick hits of dopamine at your fingertips, cultural evolution at its finest.

We always hear about the negative ways that social media and the digital landscape are affecting our relationships: we don’t talk as much in person, social media is a highlight reel, we expect instant gratification and our expectations, in general, are much higher, etc. But is it really all negative? If you’re a pessimist, sure. Let’s explore a few of the negative and positive ways the digital landscape is affecting our relationships:

We are better connected than ever before:

Never before in the history of our species have we had the ability to connect with so many people from so many walks of life. I met my boyfriend on Instagram (confirmation that it does, in fact, go down in the DMs) and I have countless friends who have met their partners online (e.g., Tinder, Bumble, etc.). Also, news flash: the digital space isn’t only for dating, it’s for bringing people together in general. Whether it be the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, or any other cause that is near and dear to your heart – technology has enabled us to come together when it matters most.

We are more creative and innovative:

Social media depends on the creation, participation, and sharing of different content. This has not only gotten us more in touch with ourselves (sometimes a little too in touch, ahem, narcissism) but it has inspired us to create and innovate unlike ever before. There are businesses that are literally being born online (oh hey Wit & Delight!) and it’s pretty cool.

We expect convenience + perfection:

With the rise of social media and technology, we have become accustomed to instant gratification, convenience and this idea of perfection. As far as convenience goes, we can pretty much get all of our social interaction within arms reach and sometimes without even actually talking to anyone; this is creating the illusion that our needs for social interaction are being satisfied when in reality, they are not. This not only affects our person-to-person relationships, it also seems to affect our expectations as consumers and having the ‘perfect’ experience. I was chatting with some friends over the weekend about how I’m always looking at menus online or reading Yelp reviews before deciding on going to a restaurant. What ever happened to just rolling with the punches and being okay if everything isn’t perfect? Experiences are always inherently good, even when they’re bad. Next time you’re traveling, instead of anxiously reading yelp reviews, ask the locals where the best brunch/lunch/dinner spot is.

We’re bad at being present:

Have you ever seen two people on a date and they are both sitting on their phones basically the whole time? Or have you yourself been “watching” Netflix and realize you’ve actually just been excessively scrolling Instagram? We tell ourselves we are really good at multitasking when in fact, we’ve become really good at not being fully present. Our consciousness and our ability to reflect/plan ahead is what sets us apart from other species – technology heightens this capability and sometimes I’m not so sure it’s a good thing.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a small peek into how our relationships are affected by the digital landscape. Life is all about balance; it’s important we consider all of the negative and positive ways technology affects us. Appreciate the positive things, be mindful of the negative, and do what feels right.

Image via Urban Outfitters

Katie is an anthropologist and philosopher at heart. A freelance writer, brand manager, and social media strategist by day. She’s usually one of three places: outside (most likely with her 9-month-old puppy, Finn), taking photos of said puppy, or at the gym. She resides in South Minneapolis with her boyfriend, Alex.