I’m convinced Skype keeps long-distance relationships alive.
It’s an amazing tool for those who only get to see their loved one in the flesh every few weeks or months. When my college-aged friend was studying in Rome, she would get up early to talk with her boyfriend – who was just getting ready to go to bed in Minnesota – over Sykpe, and being able to talk face-to-face made the 4,093 miles between them seem little more than a few feet.
As I navigate my own long-distance relationship, I often think of my parents, who lived only three hours apart until they were engaged. They made up the distance with long car trips, expensive phone calls, and handwritten letters.
We’ve got it so much easier today, it seems — we can have anyone on the phone in seconds, shoot off a text and get an instant reply, and spend an hour in each other’s company via a screen.
But technology doesn’t always add life to relationships – sometimes it’s a killer.
According to a story on NPR, “It turns out that text messages and social media sites like Facebook and MySpace – so often lauded for bringing people together – can also drive a wedge between couples”…especially married couples.
There are a few reasons it can hurt, rather than help, a relationship.
First, there’s the cost. If your spouse gets addicted to texting, and you’re stuck with the bill, that a big (expensive) problem.
Second, and more importantly, it makes infidelity so much easier. Social media like Facebook, text-messaging, and (I’m guessing) Skype make it easier for people to reconnect with former flames or casually build relationships outside of marriage that could lead to an affair. And this could be happening while the person’s in the room with their spouse.
These are relationships that may have never formed if people were left to their in-person contacts and not the devices of their cell phones, Tara Fritsch, a marriage therapist in Edmond, Okla., told NPR.
Opportunity & infidelity
To be sure, she says, texting doesn’t break up a marriage, people do. But opportunity is a key predictor of infidelity, and social media have increased opportunity exponentially. Does something remind you of an old flame? You can reconnect in the few seconds it takes to type the person’s name into Facebook.
“Twenty years ago,” Fritsch says, “if you really thought a co-worker was interesting, and later on that evening you thought of them and wanted to say, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ Then you would have to ask yourself, ‘Is it really appropriate to call them at home? What if their spouse answers? What am I thinking about?’”
Today, those stopgaps are gone. Texts and e-mails can be delivered privately. Sending a little message, at least at first, can feel so innocent.
And even when infidelity is not involved, couples find their smart devices getting in the way. They allow for easy distraction – a quick check of the score, news, or work e-mail easily cuts into family time or evolves into a half-hour of scrolling through your college roommate’s Facebook.
In another NPR story, Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist and co-author of Married To Distraction, said that couples need to turn phones off regularly and make undivided time for another. You know, the stuff good marriages are made of?
As Catholic singles look to build happy relationships, it’s necessary to re-examine their texting time – and whom they’re texting – to avoid these pitfalls and worse. Real conversation happens in a real room, with someone you’re in a real relationship with.
Maybe someday, when I’m married, my spouse and I will designate a no-call hour, especially if it teaches us how truly to focus on one another.
Until then, what do you think, readers? Does technology hurt or help your relationships?
Eight percent of CatholicMatch members text “up to 50 times daily,” while 22 percent said they don’t text, according to this poll.