Many scientific and societal debates about the use and effects of interactive technology (e.g., smartphones, internet, social networking sites) in relationships are shaped by implicit or explicit negative beliefs. Although it is important to acknowledge potential risks, we need to avoid the message that technology is only detrimental to the relationship and emphasize the positive opportunities of interactive technology for deepening the emotional bond with our partner.
In fact, there may be positive relationship contributions of interactive technologies, which is remarkable because “keeping in touch with and communicating affection to the partner” is the number one reason why people use technology to communicate with their partner. It is through social connectedness that people fulfil their basic need to belong. Hence, many couples report feeling closer to their partner using online-mediated communication or texting.
Mobile communicative technology offers tools to reassure a partner or signal continued romantic interest, cope with busy/conflicting schedules during the day, discuss practical issues, and keep partners connected while being separated. The latter is particularly convenient when having a long-distance relationship. Sending texts or emails to the partner can also assist in problem-solving because it gives more time to reflect before responding and to focus more on the content of the message without being distracted by non-verbal cues from their partner.
It is an important task of educators and clinicians to discuss both the challenges and opportunities of using technology in the relationship. They can help couples harness the positive aspects of technology, reduce problematic use, and promote more adaptive ways of integrating smartphones and social media into their relationship.
Section Experimental Health Psychology, Clinical Psychological Science, Departments, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience