When I saw the popular Indian movie, Monsoon Wedding, I was impressed not only by the quality of the movie but also of the culture clash between modern and traditional values. While the women dressed conservatively, they used their cell phones in a scene that made you smile. The culture clash does not end there, as trends in Indian media adopt some Western trends.
One of the things that are affected in all cultures, due to media viewing, is fashion. You will notice that traditional cultural clothing traditions change and morph when people are exposed to high fashion and trendy clothes. And it happens in all cultures. Trends in Europe affect trends in the United States and those, in turn, cause shifts in Asian and Indian attire, when they have frequent access to American TV and movies. At times, the changes may seem inappropriate or too sharp a divide from the traditional dress, and can cause controversy in cultures and families. Dress is not the only trend affected by media; our behavior is especially affected by media exposure.
Another area that media influences is relationships. Dating behaviors and acceptable couples’ behaviors vary according to culture. And any time that you observe something that seems appealing, you may want to try it out. But the likelihood that what you are seeing at the movies is how things really work in real life is slim. Hollywood wants to entertain you and they do a spectacular job, but you should never assume that the way relationships work on TV or at the movies is typical of real life relationships.
This brings me to the effect of cell phones and IPads on real relationships. When you are on your phone while with friends or a partner, you aren’t really present to listen to them. You are more invested in checking out the latest post on e-mail of the Internet, and can’t make eye contact. Without it, you are unlikely to be able to really connect to your friends.
You may hardly exist separate from your devices. Whether it’s the weather, texts for business or personal schedules and updates, there are many things that are more difficult to do unless you have a digital connection.
But there is an intruder or third party in the relationship that comes between you. It’s called, “technoference.” And arguments over technoference cannot be resolved with technology: A study last year by Brigman Young University in the United States revealed that serious conversations and apologies do more harm than good when it comes to maintaining a healthy relationship if they are done via text. And social skills don’t fully develop when you grow up text messaging because you don’t get to see the nuances of human behavior and don’t develop the healthiest emotional responses.
Misunderstandings occur when you don’t have the full picture.
How to Stop Technoference
1. The first and most obvious solution is to ask your partner for tech-free time and areas. “Put the phone away,” is the best advice, or put it on silent. If they fail, don’t criticize them, just talk about the consequences (“When you answer your phone when I am telling you about my day, it interrupts the flow of our conversation and I don’t want to talk anymore.) Then ask for what you do want and see if your partner can agree.
2. Deep and active listening is only possible if you are focused on your partner, not your device. You will hear and understand them more completely by giving undivided attention.
3. Making eye contact allows for an even deeper understanding of what the other person is feeling and brings the couple closer together.
4. Relationships become happier when you begin to be more present at the moment to become aware of body language, unspoken messages, moods, etc.
5. Focus on sacred time together uninterrupted by outside influences, work or other people. It will make the relationship more fulfilling.
If you are feeling challenged in making these changes, think of a time when you had a successful experience with turning off your devices, maybe a time when it improved communication. Then think of a word that reminds you of that time of success, perhaps the name of a person or where you were. When you feel challenged, use that word to remind you of your feeling of success so that you feel empowered to make a good decision in the present.
About the author
Nancy MramorKajuth, Ph.D., has been invited to more than 350 media placements in TV, radio and print, including ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS and many major magazines. She has been an author, speaker, on-air expert, producer at a local PBS network and scriptwriter on topics involving news, pop culture, health, relationships, and parenting. The National Association of Professional Women, in the category of Pennsylvania Psychology, selected her as one of Western Pa’s Most Successful Women and Outstanding Woman of the Year 2013-14. Dr. MramorKajuth has been interviewed and referenced in many publications including Woman’s Health, Women’s World, Men’s Health, The New York Daily News and The Washington Post.She the author of the book Get Reel: Produce Your Own Life, about how our media is affecting relationships, health, family and spending, and what you can do about it. Get Reel: Produce Your Own Life