Is technoference a ‘thing’ in your life?

by Marian Meade, RN BScN Psychotherapist, Director of Counselling at Serenity Renewal for Families

I love technology! It’s above and beyond what I could have ever imagined. Cell phones, internet, data, laptops, facetime, social media, – all unheard of when I was a kid.
As a psychotherapist and coach, however, I’ve seen a downside. In a relatively short period of time, the cultural influence of technology has created a worldwide habit- we’ve become mesmerized by our cell phones. Although we now have instant access to random people and data, we’re becoming more distant from the most important people in our lives.
Our devices have quickly infiltrated our lives and, often, it seems as though we’d prefer to interact with our phones rather than those we are with. Our phones are often the last thing we look at before bed, and the first thing we look at in the morning.
Where technology was meant to make our lives easier, it seems that it has become a huge distraction that is putting relationships at risk.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if technology is interfering in your relationships:
• Do friends and family complain that they have to compete with your phone for attention?
• Do you go to your phone to avoid awkward conversations?
• Do you get a high from checking your phone?
• Do you take your phone with you everywhere you go and feel stressed out if you can’ t check it every fifteen minutes?
• Do you keep your phone on the table while eating dinner?
• Do you interrupt others or yourself to check a message?
• Are you missing out on important conversations?
It’s easy to understand why we’ve become preoccupied with technology. As humans, we love novelty. The instant gratification of pings and rings from texts and phones, and ‘likes’ on facebook cause the release of the chemical dopamine, which gives us a ‘high’ feeling, which is hugely addictive. We want more and more of it so that we can keep that ‘high’ feeling.
A common complaint I hear from couples I work with is that they have to compete with their partners’ device so that they can be heard. Rather than dinner for two, the partner feels like the fifth wheel. As soon as a device is placed on the table, it sends a message that those present are not as important as a message from a device.
Children and teens report feeling unimportant as parents manage their stress by escaping to their phones to numb out and de-stress. Parents feel at a loss in trying to get their kids’ attention as they’ve become hooked on games.
Professor Sarah Coyne calls the phenomena of choosing technology over people who are present in the room, ‘technoference’. Another term coined is phubbing- the habit of snubbing a physically present person in favour of a cell phone. The word comes from a combination of phone and snubbing. It’s an unpleasant experience to be in the middle of a conversation with someone when suddenly you get put on hold while they tend to something more important- their phone. This leads to people feeling unimportant and ignored.
Want to reduce your reliance on your phone? Here are a few tips to consider:
1. Be mindful by tracking how much time you are actually spending on your phone. You may be shocked when you see the numbers.
2. Prioritize the cost of investing time on your phone versus time you could be spending with loved one.
3. Ask others to share the impact that your device use is having on them. Remember, they are letting you know that they miss having you around
4. Create Rules together about device use and lead by example. Consider having device free meals
5. Safety: Make conversations safe and comfortable so you don’t have to rely on gadgets to feel better.
6. Remove consider removing from your phone the apps you are most attached to
7. Alarm Get an alarm clock rather than relying on your device to wake you up
8. Boundaries If someone’s technoference is affecting your relationship, share the impact that them being on the phone is having on you. Request time limits. Be patient as it takes time to unlearn a habit.

Technology is here to stay. We just need to be sure that we are the ones determining how much and when to use it rather than having it run us.