We are living in a unique time in history, when communication technology has greatly changed the world and our lives. Some of these changes are viewed as positive and others as negative. Remember when the internet came into existence and everyone was saying, “Emailing will make our lives so much easier?” I have yet to meet anyone who thinks that has turned out to be true. In many ways, technology has created multiple “electronic leashes” that tether us to our work, home life and other entities, e.g., advertising/marketing firms that have access to our email addresses, mobile numbers, and Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts, etc.
As a psychologist, I listen daily to a wide variety of problems, stressors and issues that clients bring to their therapy sessions. I often see people bringing several phones with them, setting them down nearby where they can see any texts or messages coming in. They often will pick up the phone during their therapy session to read something that was sent. In discussing such things, clients will sometimes report that they get and respond to multiple emails, texts and other forms of communication at all hours of the day and night! Typically, they often also report significant stress associated with reading and responding to those communications. One of the goals of therapy might be to help the client set healthier boundaries regarding monitoring or responding to such communications.
How often have you been at a restaurant and observed a family of four or five sitting at the table, all with their faces buried in their cellphones? Whatever happened to communicating using your voice and words? Who can relate to picking up your child or children and the second they get into your car, they have their face buried in their cellphone? How many people are essentially addicted to playing games like Candy Crush on their cellphones?
I sometimes have an individual or couple come in for therapy and one of the issues is that one or the other continually has their attention focused on their cellphone communications. I encourage the couple to try and discuss the issue and hopefully create and agree to some healthy boundaries to address that situation (for example, some type of agreement to not use their cellphones while out on date night so that they are fully present with each other — whether in the car, eating dinner, watching a movie, or whatever other activity they are engaged in). Some families have instituted a “no cellphone usage” rule when sitting at the dinner table or eating out at a restaurant.
If you can relate to any of these or similar situations, and think that a confidential consultation or a counseling appointment to address this issue might be helpful, please feel free to contact Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500.