Is Technology to Blame for Emotional Barriers?

Image via Pink's Galaxy Flikr Creative Commons

Image via Pink’s Galaxy Flikr Creative Commons

We have all been there. In a restaurant where people are texting instead of talking. They tweet and Facebook and seem to be lost in the digital world instead of participating in the real one. Many writers (and people) are skeptical of social media and technology. We’ve all been with that person who can’t stop chatting on the phone long enough to actually engage in the real-life conversation. Yet, is technology to blame for the emotional distance?

I never really knew my father, particularly in my early years. He left for work before I was even awake and frequently came home just in time for dinner. Then he would read for hours and say three words to us kids. We knew better than to interrupt him watching TV or reading his latest paperback. And my dad easily read three books a week. I think part of the reason I loved books as a child was I wanted some way to connect to my father.

My grandfather worked all the time. He was gone on the road most of the year. When he was home, he was immersed in a newspaper or any number of sports on the television. Baseball, basketball, football, fishing, golf all the time. Silence. No conversation. It might interrupt the crossword puzzle. My dad had tried to connect to his father for many years, but his father was too busy with his company. Probably why my father sought escape in fiction. His brother took refuge in sports and the youngest immersed himself in D&D and later video games.

When I did get to talk to my grandfather, I learned that his father was a minister and farmer. Too busy writing sermons, planting, caring for the community to really be engaged. Work was the only time there was a semblance of connection. Maybe this is why my grandfather looked to work for solace.

And the females of my family were equally distant. My grandmother was busy cooking, the other grandmother too busy cleaning. My mom and aunts would shuffle us outside as soon as the cartoons ended so they could clean, organize, wallpaper, sew or talk over coffee.

When I was in college, I finally gave up visiting a long-time friend. She would invite me over for a visit and then spend the entire time on the phone while I twiddled my thumbs and wondered why I was there.

Thus, I am no stranger to having to compete with “things” for attention. Whether it was work, chores, books, papers, sewing machines, games or television, barriers have always been a part of life. So have poor manners.

I don’t know. Maybe the problem is more prevalent these days. Maybe my family is the odd duck.

Part of why I work so hard at teaching WANA ways is that, if technology is going to be an integral part of our culture, then we have a choice HOW we use the tool. We can use it to unplug from the human experience and drift along on auto-pilot, or we can actively resist our nature and use the same tools to become more involved in others. We can use technology to connect, laugh, love and offer support.

What are your thoughts? Is technology the problem? Is it how we are handling the technology? What are your frustrations? Do you find technology has helped you be closer to others, or that it’s become a barrier? Are you like me and grew up competing with television, phones and sports?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of March I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!


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  1. No, the technology, per se, is not to blame; the way it is used is the problem. Any technology, from the printing press to the atom-splitter, is a tool and is only as good or as bad as the uses people put it to. I think the problem is that new technology sneaks up on us and before we know it, it has taken over. We need to put limits on it to keep it all in perspective. Curbing screen time, insisting all devices be turned off at the dinner table, etc., all help to keep it under control. But then, of course, dysfunctional families will always find something to occupy them besides real honest-to-goodness interaction. It’s our job (all of us) to model healthy give-and-take interactions. And most of the time that’s harder than it sounds.

    • Lanette Kauten on March 11, 2013 at 10:23 am
    • Reply

    Technology has given us a better excuse to disconnect from those around us.

  2. There have always been things available to block out that which hurts or is uncomfortable My newly released book, Dreamer, deals with this very thing. People become dysfunctional for reasons far beyond technology. Rather than blame something that enhances our lives, it might pay to search out the real causes.

  3. Same thing here, Kristen. Lots of disconnection when I was growing up. I remember wanting to talk to my parents and they were parked in front of the TV (black and white, ha!), on the phone, etc. Now,it pisses me off no end to be talking to someone and have them texting at the same time.You’re so right, manners SHOULD still be important. I would love a critique and can promise it won’t languish in my spam folder. Thanks!

  4. I hear you sister. … it’s not the technology; it’s the humans. xo

    • Patty H. on March 11, 2013 at 10:29 am
    • Reply

    Connecting in person with others forces you to feel. Some people avoid feeling. Technology makes this even easier.

    • SweetSong on March 11, 2013 at 10:36 am
    • Reply

    I don’t think technology is the problem, but I do think that it makes the problem more likely to arise. As you illustrated in your post, anyone can be distant using other media – however, as technology grows more pervasive, it becomes easier and easier to always have your attention divided. But when it comes right down to it, it’s all in how the technology is used.

  5. Your good examples illustrate it clearly: the disconnection’s been with us for a long time. Technology has simply brought it right in front of us, where we can still choose to acknowledge — and address — it, or not.
    Possibility: our capacity to connect with ourselves in a reflective way may be what nourishes and supports our ability to be truly social. Getting to reflection seems to require choosing away from distraction. Hole-in-the-soul emptiness, on the other hand, drives us back into distraction, and away from real connection, and many decades of cultural reinforcement often make that a path-of-least-resistance default.
    It takes real, and moral, courage to connect with your self, so as to be able to truly relate with others.

  6. I think technology has become our new crutch to support us in our solitude. It’s far too easy to become attached to someone at a distance, since they don’t realize your house isn’t spotless or you have a safety pin in your dress. When clubs go from regular face to face meetings to more remote methods of doing business it’s much easier to make decisions that might have a negative impact on members. After all, they’re only marks on your screen or maybe a shared Facebook image. I remember calling someone I’d been having a great e-mail discussion with, just because I was feeling too remote from them. They were surprised but pleased for the contact.
    All too often we hold ourselves away from each other…protection perhaps? Or a fear we won’t be a good enough friend. Phew, enough introspection even for a Monday

  7. My girlfriend would drop me like a hot rock to watch the same MTV video…again. People have always been more important to me than television or a radio. And I will drop my book if someone approaches to have a conversation. I like the book. I love people.

  8. I agree with some of the comments above: that dysfunctional families will always find an anchor to pull them down and that tech’y is another convenient barrier to avoid interaction and feelings.
    What is scarier to me though is to allow myself to be left behind and to become irrelevant to my children and to younger people because I didn’t keep up with technology and therefore, cannot carry on an intelligent conversation with them about the here & now, instead of reminiscing about the “good ol’ days”.
    To my kids – young adults, 17 & 21 – tech’y is intuitive; they’ve used it from the playpen with toys and computerized readers (Geo-something). Now it’s phones and laptops and tablets. They have no fear of breaking a computer because they are not financially invested (well, one is, and he’s about to learn a hard lesson). One’s about to study IT in college, the other wants to be a
    web /media journalist.
    But when I see people in my 50’ish age bracket shrug their shoulders and excuse themselves with “I’m just not tech’y,” I think to myself “Well get tech’y or prepare to be left behind, because it is the world we’re crossing into today.”
    Like you, I work to translate all of my online contacts into face to face community. I’ve followed your lead on a tinier scale and brought people who felt disenfranchised into a small, online early morning writers’ group . My next goal is to meet people at different writers’ cons face to face in their various areas of the country.
    My major frustration is the never ending learning curve that just won’t straighten out and allow mastery.

  9. Your family was not the “odd duck”. Mine was much the same, except for one grandmother who was ALWAYS there for me. She taught me how to be good to people.

    I believe technology is nothing more than a scapegoat. It doesn’t cause the distance between people. We’ve done an exceptional job of that since long before the first computer chip came along. In fact, these modern gadgets have helped me to discover connections that would have been far out of my reach otherwise. My often solitary world has expanded to include many amazing friends, people that mean the world to me, people who care about and support me… and for that, I am thankful.

  10. I think it can be a fine line. For a long time a lived quite far from most my friends and technology allowed me to keep in touch – whether chatting online, posting on Facebook or filming video blogs to keep each other up to date and in that sense technology allowed me to maintain friendships that may otherwise have been lost. But on the other hand I also know that because I’m certain I’ll ‘see’ them on Facebook I do tend to put off calling people and lose all sense of how long it’s been since I had a proper conversation with people.

    As for dysfunctional families – it’s true that sometimes the same traits of ‘bad’ parenting can pass for generations with everybody just assuming that is normal. But it doesn’t have to – my mum grew up hardly ever seeing her mother, who chose to both work and raise 6 children, and as such her mother was never there to just chat with and they still have a strained relationship. My mum and me on the other hand are very close because my mum was adamant she wasn’t going to make the same mistakes. My dads the same – he barely knew his parents growing up (he was in hospital for two years and they didn’t visit him once) and while he isn’t exactly Mr Heart-On-His-Sleeve, he is always there for us and we’re really close.

  11. I was just thinking about this very thing… how often my daughter (an introvert) would seek me out but I had my face and attention planted in something online. It seems innocuous, but it sends a message. 🙁 But it also does when someone can’t stop checking tweets/text messages/email on their phone when you’re having lunch together. It takes a lot of energy to use manners and be sociable, always the possibility of rejection, having to field inappropriate questions/comments.

    On the other hand, people have tire of hearing endless tirades and self-involved rants of others, too – so if I etch out an hour to have lunch with someone, if I am talked AT the entire time, like some sounding board, or a dictation machine (do people still use those?) then I am less likely to share my time with them again. We are also controllers who want to switch on/switch off the flow of information, and we have less of that when in an in-person encounter.

    In a huge nutshell there, I don’t blame technology, it’s just a tool, but people want attention > opportunities > control and tech makes it easy to connect on our own terms, at our own speed… for right or wrong.

  12. Enjoyed your post; I don’t think technology is the problem causing emotional barriers, but I do think it’s a convenient crutch for people who are subject to such issues. Technology is a tool. It will either improve our lives or hinder them based on our maturity and emotional status.

    • R Julian Cox on March 11, 2013 at 11:24 am
    • Reply

    This is a BIG question with some equally BIG answers. ‘Technology’ is there as a ‘tool’ to be used just like the pen or typewriter.

    The problem is with the internet, television, and radio is that they can become so invasive and demand our attention just when we don’t want to give it. And with tv it seduces us after a hard day at the office so that slumping in front of it to be entertained we think is easier and better than going out to the theatre/cinema/pub/line dancing etc etc. We forget what US architect Frank Lloyd Wright said that ‘tv is chewing gum for the eyes’. How many times have I gone home (a 400 mile round trip) to see my old mammy and pappy to be told soon as I went through the front door: ‘Shut up and sit down. ‘We’re watching something good on the tv!’ (It was rubbish too).

    The flip side here is that ‘technology’ also presents opportunities. For example no internet then no WANA!!! No self publishing.

    So in a nutshell ‘technology’ is whatever you want to make of !

    The thing fore me is I never forget ‘technology has an on/off switch.

    Unlike some people!

    Have fun out there, especially in Fort Worth (which I think is where you live Kristen) which is I think where even as we speak Lockheed Martin are busy churning out the F35 as fast as they can go. Now there’s one hunk of technology!

  13. Technology is just an excuse. I think most of us want to get through life with as little trauma as possible and sometimes that means isolating yourself. Where I grew up most fathers were always busy working, but many of them took time to be with their kids. My dad worked a lot, but he made sure we were taken places and shown new experiences.

    I left home when I was 17 and since then have not been close to my family. We spent 26 years in Florida where we were very much a part of my wife’s family. Letter writing was tedious and time consuming, so I didn’t write much, but with today’s technology we can stay in touch so much easier. And it’s far easier to meet and stay in touch with new people.

    I really enjoy the social media, primarily FaceBook. Where else can you argue and debate, hold opposing opinions and, once the dust has settled, still be friends.

  14. Good subject!

    I was kind of pondering on our use of social media the other day and how it has tricked us into thinking we are doing something greater than the sum.

    For example, before this leap in technology we had to communicate by a few means that forced us into interaction. The phone, mail, and actually speaking to someone. When you spent a whole hour writing about your life and then had to wait a few weeks to get a response; you would have been upset to open the letter only to read, “LOL! Funny!”.

    Social media has tricked us into thinking that posting a tidbit of information and then slamming the door shut is having a conversation. Or when you are mad about the actions of a company or someone’s actions, that posting about the problem has fulfilled your duties and now that the world knows of your dissatisfaction; the problem should be taken care of.

    Debate and solving problems are taking the back seat to people who only want to be critics.

  15. Great reminder!

  16. In my personal life, technology is very much a way to escape from the boredom I tend to experience at work and school. Since coming to blogging though, I have found that it enables me to actually connect with more people with similar interests. Rather than hoping that someone I meet in my day to day interactions is a writer, I can search with a much narrower focus and find interesting and engaging individuals to communicate with on a more interesting and intellectual level while discussing things we have in common that I don’t relate to any of my “real world” friends on.
    In the end, it’s all about what you want to get out of your technological experience. Sure, there are times when I shut myself off from everyone around me via books or video games, but blogging and meeting interesting people is equally important to me.
    I feel like tachnology is actually helping writers make more connections. Writing, by its very nature, is a solo activity and leads to major introversion. Having something like blogging as a platform for writers to communicate is hugely beneficial.

    • annerallen on March 11, 2013 at 11:46 am
    • Reply

    Technology allows lots of communication that never happened in the past. A kid isolated in a dysfunctional family can reach out to kids all over the world and have friends in spite of a nonverbal family like the one you describe. So it’s not the fault of the tech. It’s the fault of people who forget the tech is there to help communication, not thwart it. Parents who don’t get kids to put down their phones and have a real family dinner are not doing their kids any favors. (And parents who do it to their kids are failing as parents.)

    I had a date once who talked on the phone during our entire dinner. I finished my meal and walked out. When he called to find out what happened, I thanked him for letting me see right off the bat what kind of person he is, so I didn’t need to waste any more of my time. People like that will not change. But it’s not the tech that made him a narcissistic jerk. Without the phone, I’m sure he would have expressed is jerkishness another way.

  17. I think technology is just the most noticeable way people around us seem to ‘check out’ of conversation. And mostly it’s a signal to everyone around you that the person on the other end of that thing you’re typing, writing or talking on, is more important than the person we’re with. Unless I’m waiting for something important, I generally try to put it away. Thankfully I have friends and family who understand not to panic if I don’t answer right away, and if it’s important, they’ll keep trying. I’ll get the message. But important means life and death, nothing else.

  18. I seems nearly impossible to make eye contact with anyone anymore. Whether it’s commuting to work or walking the mall. everyone, regardless of age seems to find their smartphones more interesting than the world around them. I like smiling at people to see how they will react. Unfortunately, it is becoming harder and harder to get someone to look at me without saying something first.

  19. I’ve formed quite a lot of friendships via technology — for example, my best friend is someone I met online and have only met once in real life. Because I’m very introverted, it’s easier for me to express myself in writing, for example in an email or a text. Even Skype chats often result in me beating about the bush, and I’ll never actually say what I want to say — I struggle to do that to people’s faces. This particular friend, however, I’ve come to trust implicitly from being able to express everything and anything in writing that I can now talk more directly through Skype or, when we occasionally meet, in person. I don’t feel as shy because I have already told all my secrets in the form of emails. And I think this is an example of technology enabling people like me to come out of our shell.

    There’s also the massive thing about making YouTube videos where one is required to put one’s face to one’s opinions — you can’t hide behind anonymity. So I’ve learned to really firmly support what I say, so that I’m never ashamed of people knowing what I think. Blogging and everything else have been a brilliant way to learn to articulate myself in person. While I still have trouble talking to people face to face, I think that’s as much because I’m an introvert as that I’ve grown up with technology. If anything, technology has reduced my embarrassment about expressing myself.

  20. Hi Kristen,
    I love the questions you raise here and the points you make about how past generations could be disconnected. As a Mother, I am working to grow my Life Coaching business, participate in my personal growth work and just learning about the world of blogging. I often find I am feeling guilty at the time it takes me away from my family. I do believe in many ways we are more conscious as a culture today to connect intentionally with our children, our spouses, parents, and friends. I believe the majority today is more in touch with knowing each other and hearing about what we think and feel. I also believe that the media, texting, etc. can be a huge distraction and a way to check out. I notice I can feel uncomfortable just “being” and feel the urge to look at my phone when I am just sitting somewhere. This is my issue and I need to be responsible to check in with myself and ask myself is there something I am avoiding here? Maybe to just slow down and “be”.

  21. Technology is a tool used for good or ill. For WANACon, we used technology to pull people together from all over the world. Real friendships grew out of that use of technology.

    It comes down to whether you’re using technology to escape from your existing relationships or using it to build new ones. And yes, some do both simultaneously.

    My father was another who preferred working to family time. I remember being 7 or so when Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” came on the radio and in a moment of epic cognizant dissonance told me “that would never be us.” Me being the too observant and aware kid I still am, knew it already was. Luckily, if we have kids of our own, we get a second chance at a good parent/child relationship.


  22. “Cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon/little boy blue and the man in the moon/when you comin’ home, Dad?/I don’t know when/but we’ll get together then, son/ya know we’ll have a good time then”
    My stepfather has the TV on all the time. He hardly talks at all. He’s a good man, and I feel as though he’s self-medicating with TV – from what, I’m not sure. I have friends who are so attached to their smartphones, they barely set them down to cut their food. I can get sucked into watching my Twitter feed, or searching Pinterest, for hours and hours, because it’s there.
    Technology is amazing. Most of my family is on Facebook – we even have a private group for one-stop-shopping information relays – and because of that, regardless of the fact that our residences span the width of the USA, we are more connected than ever before. But…
    I’ve observed that it can take the place of face-to-face communication for those of us who live in close proximity. It’s easy to fall into. It’s easy to accept, even. Then, suddenly, six months have gone by and you haven’t given a hug to your cousins and aunt, even though they live less than a mile away.
    In that instance, technology sucks.

    • mark a. on March 11, 2013 at 12:42 pm
    • Reply

    i definitely think technology is a great thing. but like others i agree that how one uses it can either be beneficial or detrimental to one’s life. my boys absolutely love to play games on the wii but sometimes they love it a wee bit too much i think. they get way too focused on the games and important things get set aside and when i have to step in the emotional barriers i encounter can make it difficult for communication. at thanksgiving, my brother and sis-in-law spent all the “quality” time with family on their smart phones. also, half the meetings i attend anymore, the majority of the people there are sitting there and multitasking with their smart phones, tablets or laptops (sometimes all three at once) and i feel isolated, disconnected, and excluded as i don’t have any of those. i feel patronized sometimes and left behind and people seem to have trouble understanding someone living so much in the “stone age”. these kind of experiences allow me to see a lot of barriers, and not just emotional ones. but i reiterate that i love technology, as i am responding to this using it now as we speak!

  23. I think technology has brought me closer to people and I’ve made many close friends through it. I have moved 7,000 miles away from my parents, brother, sister, nieces, nephews and other family members and technology has enabled us to keep in touch. I even had family members join in with singing my son “Happy Birthday” and watching him blow out his candles (using Skype).

  24. Most of the friends who I finally stopped hanging out with because they spent our entire visits on their phones have image problems. The problem is not the technology itself, but the desire to be liked. Facebook and other subsequent social networks feed on that desire, so these individuals are constantly checking every comment, like, etc., on something they post because they are hyper-aware of their internet image and feed off of the reactions they get from their daily self-portraits and status updates.

  25. I have connected with more people via technology than I would have otherwise. I’m thrilled when I get to meet my online friends in real life – and it seems we have so much to say to each other. But I also put my foot down when it comes to technology at the dinner table. Phones get put away, and we sit and talk and laugh and enjoy each other. My parents always made time to talk to us kids; so I do my best to pass on that tradition.

    But technology is no substitute to digging in the dirt, feeling the sun on my face, or hugging a friend. My feeling is that it’s use as a barrier is no different than the use of a newspaper at the breakfast table. A barrier is a barrier.

  26. Isn’t it obvious? It isn’t technology that is bad.
    Is it the computer that a mother seems to be plugged into day and night, at fault for her not taking the time to connect with her kids? No, technology is an idea, a thing, it bears no blame.
    The weakness of humanity, social media, and community are the things that need to change. You can blame television for the violence you see in your kids, you can blame technology for lack of human connection in the world, you can blame hot tea for burning you, but isn’t that just an excuse to push the blame off of yourself?
    Should you never drink hot tea again after it burns you?
    People have a hard time saying no to the things that they want. Plain and simple. Self discipline is not held in high enough regard. It is self discipline, along with family honor, and dignity that needs to be valued in the media, and in communities. These traits need to be held high, and people that have these qualities should be applauded.
    It isn’t the worlds job to hold the hands of everyone, and let you know the latest craze that the world should hate, because it is “bad”. What we should be doing instead is talking about the things that people SHOULD have. Make it known that connection with your families, and letting go of hurt is an amazing thing. Make it the new “fad” to have self discipline, and respect.
    Maybe then the symptoms we see, like no face to face connection, and the new face accessories, called smart phones will subside.
    Just thoughts I had in regards to your post. 🙂

  27. during my non work time

    I designate, control

    the moments

    I check my technology

    (3 set times a day)


    when one lets others




    control their time


    only the individual

    is to blame


    blaming others

    is only a symptom

    of a person

    with unidentified


  28. It is an interesting question. I tend to think that the technology is an easy excuse for those who already want to disconnect for some reason. If people want to connect, they will, and technology can be an incredible facilitator for that. I stay in touch with my geographically distant family members way more frequently now than I ever did before thanks to Facebook. It’s all in how you use it.

  29. Reblogged this on Shaping Destiny and commented:
    Very much enjoyed this story and the questions raised.

  30. I was very shy growing up. I always had a book with me and whenever I felt uncomfortable I could whip out the book. It was enough to keep people away. That has now transitioned to a phone / Kindle, and I know I’m using them as a crutch to keep people out. But my husband and I have started trying to live a simpler life, and part of that is deciding what that looks like for us. So I have chosen to spend a half hour daily in prayer / meditation and all day on Sunday with no phone, TV, computer, or radio. The first Sunday was strange. I’d find myself reaching for my phone and remember it wasn’t there. Instead of spending a few minutes checking Facebook or playing Angry Birds while waiting on my husband after church, I enjoyed the sunshine, people watched, and even talked to a few people face-to-face. A game of Munchin Zombie rounded out the night, and it was a great day. I plan to keep this up for a while and spend my Sundays relaxing and reconnecting with the people that are important in my life.

  31. Ahh – the double-edge sword that is technology. It gives us all the things we consider necessities of life, and conversely created the need for them in the first place. It has enabled us to be closer to each other than ever before, and moved us further away.

    In the end though it’s only a tool, and for all our anthropomorphising, an inanimate one at that. It’s how we choose to use it that counts.

  32. Thanks, nice post. Well, I think we had a lot of interaction as kids but I definitely see technology, as you described, as good and bad. I thankfully live in a rural area where people move here because they want to “opt out” a bit. So most of the people here strike a good balance, using technology when they need to: because most of us need it to have jobs! But when I visit family in bigger cities? Wow, what a mess! Nobody seems to listen to anyone. Even my mother is so checked-out on her computer and ipad and iphone to even think about getting to know my son. People really need to use it as a tool and stop letting technology take over their lives. They need to put boundaries on it just like everything else.

  33. I don’t think the problem is with technology itself, I think the problem existed long before all the technology we had today, in certain people. The problem is that technology has made it easier for people to pull into themselves and not be social with the rest of the world. A lot of people feel social by scrolling down their Facebook Feed and typing a new status, but is that really interaction?

  34. If people don’t want to connect, they won’t. After all, you can have a table of people eating silently, not making eye contact, without any cell phones/books/tv/newspapers/etc.
    Cells are just an easily portable and addictive option to ignore everyone.

  35. Great post. We were not allowed to read or do anything else at the table growing up, so I think I am over-sensitive to the kinds of uses of technology I see, especially when in the company of “actual” people. We weren’t allowed to answer the phone if it rang during a meal. But I know that’s just one family, and one way of being in the world. I think what’s interesting about cell phones, etc is that people feel can connected and “seen” right away. That, combined with the instant bing of the phone (which has to spike some brain chemical) 🙂 can make people feel like they are fully engaged in the world, when they are only engaged in a slice of it. I used to talk on the phone for HOURS as a teenager (not during dinner!) 🙂 — a lot of that was just holding on to the phone in silence, feeling another person on the other end.

  36. It is ironic in the true sense (not the hipster sense). Technology does bring isolation. I remember family roadtrips – the long ones to Nebraska. We’re talking twelve hours in a car with your sibling and your mom & dad. There was no DVD, no earphones, and dad controlled the radio. By the end of the trip dad was threatening to build a partition in the back of the Chevy. Today we see the opposite – SUVs with televisions that are turned on the moment more than one child is in one of the back seats. Better yet, try to be frank with a younger person because they’ve made a mistake at work. They can’t take the face to face. Or, how about the IT guy who would rather send a text than make a phone call and have to interact with another human voice?

    It’s like how television shows us the world and what it is not (I hope that makese sense). I mean, we see things we’ve never seen before, but it’s not real and often distorted. Communications technology makes it easier to communicate, but it also makes it less likely.

  37. I think that you’ve raised a really good point, Kristen, one I haven’t heard anyone else make. There seems to be an awful lot of social-media-bashing these days. But, thing is, if a person is inclined to ‘switch off’ from others anyway, then regardless of the methods they use, they will continue to switch off, and remain distant. Whereas folks who wish to engage others, to connect and communicate on a meaningful level will naturally use social media and technology to do the same!

  38. In a way, I would think that technology has expanded many men’s lives. As a sex, most are not great communicators so putting their thoughts into words by typing them out may be an only outlet for some. It could be a generational thing too. My dad never said too much to us until the weekends.
    I came from an opposite household and my own kids got “twenty questions” when they came home from school!

    Blogging is the only communication some home bound people have.

    That said, the internet is addictive. Checking the phone every five minutes while with friends is a big no, no and really can be upsetting to others who made an effort to be there in real life.

  39. As others have said, you can use technology to either pull people to you or (on purpose or no) push them away. An individual who likes to spend his time avoiding conversations will find a way to do it, whether he has a computer or no. A person who seeks to connect with others will use technology to do it in different ways. I think it’s false logic to blame the tool for what its human user does.

  40. I agree with you and think that easy access to technology and social media can present obvious difficulties for how we connect with others in the “real” world; people are easily distracted, not attentive, anxious, etc. But I also am very curious about how these mediums affect the way we virtually “connect” with others (even during those times when we are alone in our rooms or offices, and so not ignoring others). Even rich exchanges on social networks and blogs can be quite superficial – as if a few sentences here and there actually constitute sufficient connection. Regardless of whether we are surrounded by others when we use digital technology and social media or are using these tools to “connect” with others at a distance, it seems that the nature of the tools themselves can contribute to emotional barriers. We don’t really learn how to meaningfully engage, we rarely develop skills for truly articulating ourselves, we hardly ever think beyond our pre-existing opinions, and we barely know how to listen.

    I’ve tried to address this a few times, in a few ways, with respect to my own work. I’d love to hear more feedback and ideas from others about how we can best use the resources of a “digitally connected” culture.

  41. The greatest gift you can give somone in this day and age is your complete undivided attention. Remember when listening was a core skill? You can’t engage fully when you’re distracted by notifications. No texting, social media, phone calls when I’m with someone else,…ever. Like, Cori above I wonder how truly meaningful these virtual connections are.

  42. I think you’re absolutely right, Kristen. Technology is a tool, and I know some who use it well and some who use it poorly. You can use anything distract you from relationships. I’ve used technology to interrupt real-life interaction and used technology to establish real-life interaction. Several “online friends” have become real-life friends, and that would have never happened without the internet.

    We have to check our own attitude and priorities and not blame the tool in our hands.

  43. I still remember when the talk at conferences and meetings and on the Internet and especially on TV programs about high tech was the death of printed books would be caused by technology. I pointed out; printed materials such as books and magazines and newspapers will exist in the marketplace as long as someone is willing to print it – Economics more than technology.

    But preserving things for posterity might be another reason to print books.

    We will always have electricity even if it is distilled water fueling hydrogen fuel cells powering turbines to provide electricity for millions; the automobile model might be released in a couple of years.

    I cannot afford to print my works so I am hoping my storage capacity is compatible for the future operating systems to be able in opening a USB drive or my old computer.

    I was told that my works on a 3-and-a-half disk can no longer be opened on the current Windows at an Internet café and neither would some USB drives. I will have to write new ones instead trying to sell what was written back on 1996 and 2006.

    Printing, hopefully the high tech ink is still readable several years from now, since I noticed the ball point pen ink – some are no longer legible.

    But the couch potato TV junkie will soon enter the digital age because of the TV/COMPUTER wide screens with computer “wifi” set ups, increasing the Social Media markets. When they are tired of watching basketball re-runs of the NBA, they will switch it to the Internet on their Cable subscription to read about what is happening now on the NBA.

    I wanted to coach high school girls or ladies college basketball, but I was never that obsessed with sports.

    Better add to my historical romance for money. Hopefully it gets printed before compatibility is lost in the Windows and Apple and Android and Google OS competitive world.

    Kristen, you can write the self-help nonfiction book on paper and E-book.

  44. I still remember when politicians wanted to shut down the Internet because a twelve-year old could be more popular than the American president. He probably had a Facebook account, the twelve years old.

  45. I never had to compete for attention, nor did my parents have to compete for mine. But there are always rifts of some kind between families, distractions which hold them back from each other. My distraction was the repetitive, self-proclaimed wisdom of my mother, who due to the personality rift between her and my older sister, would essentially trap me into one-sided conversations about her views on politics, religion, and my sister’s choices in life. It made me avoid my mother when I could, for fear of hearing the same judgmental things from her mouth every day. I was close with my mother, but this barrier grew despite it. She competed for my attention when I was competing to avoid her attention. Technology may be a way to make that barrier more visible, but the separations within a family, whether subtle or gaping, always develop. It’s why you or your family creates the barrier and how you react to that barrier that matters.

    • Jennifer Smith on March 11, 2013 at 6:06 pm
    • Reply

    I think you’re exactly right. Technology itself isn’t the root of the problem when it comes to relationship barriers.

  46. I deleted my FB page. The withdrawals have been crazy, but what I noticed was i was “connecting” with people online but the books weren’t getting sold, the fans weren’t rushing to read my latest tweet or follow my blog. For me, my marketing is just the opposite – I sell my work when I’m in front of people so that’s what I’m going to do. Maybe in a few months, i’ll go back to the social networking, but for now, I’m focused on booking readings, and appearing at fairs.

    Here’s hoping I can connect with readers the old fashioned way because it’s going to be quite a while before I jump back into the virtual world of “connecting”.

    1. I do not have a FACEBOOK account, but I do have anything to sell right now except my ego. I doubt an editor of the big six publishing houses will think my novel is any better just because I have an account. You could use Facebook to tell people where you will be meeting and greeting and selling your latest creation. Social Media can be better than buying a full page ad on USA Today since most of us cannot afford it. I remember when writers talked about buying ads on local radio just to tell people where they were signing books of their latest novel. Facebook with a following could save you on advertising.

      1. I was indeed using it to tell people where I’d be and what books would be available, but at most, I’d get one or two people who would acknowledge the event. No one was moved to attend or participate. I’m thinking that for me, right now, at this stage in my growing career, it’s more important to be out in the crowds, making face to face connections first, THEN, once I’ve built a solid base, go back to utilizing social media.

        1. It is a personal venture. Do what you must. I want to concentrate on writing novels so I really do not want to jump head first at the ten-foot deep side of a swimming pool, especially when I do not know how to swim. But I now know how to write novels. I will write it my way until I find an editor willing to pay me to write it a different way. Good luck and have fun. I wanted to rent a booth at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri to showcase my novels when I was published. If World Book Encyclopedia could be successful with the marketing scheme, surely I could with my books. Right now for me, write it and find an editor of a publishing house.

          1. Good luck to you as well 🙂

  47. So I guess I am not the only who thought of that way …

  48. It’s been my observation that people don’t engage with one another because they find them boring. They’d rather do the other things, like reading, watching TV, work, etc. Things that don’t involve personal interaction. People find kids boring. They don’t know how to relate to them after a few minutes. Their parents may have treated them the same way, so they in turn pass on that behavior. Also, people are rude, even without intention. Of course, all of this is more a reflection on the person being bored, than the object of their boredom. Modern technology only speeds up the process of distraction, it isn’t the cause of it. It’s fast enough to counter certain types of boredom because it can be tailor-adjusted to fit the user.

    Where I live (in Asia) everyone has a cell phone of some sort and are on them all the time, in every situation. However, the only way I would know this is because they are all out and about living their lives, so I see them. Internet shops are very popular, and are filled to capacity every hour school isn’t in session. Yet people still meet one another in them where they chat and eat together.

    Technology in its present form is still very new in the world domain. The human psyche hasn’t fully absorbed it yet. Most people are still “playing” with the technology, not really using it to its full capacity. I live on the opposite side of the world from my native country, so most of modern technology for me means I have access to people, places, thoughts, and ideas from people, not only from my country of origin, but from everywhere in the world. I can go outside of my house and interact with a culture completely alien to my upbringing, then go online and interact with people from every walk of life, and from a multitude of counties. I use the technology to enhance my life and interact with the people I know and I’ve met, both present, and past.

    I have a busy life, so I’m not distracted by online games. To my own detriment, I don’t engage as much as I should in social networking because I’d rather be outside living real life, or writing my stories. Though I do enjoy meeting folks online, for me, it is a huge time suck which I can’t seem to confine to fifteen minutes like so many social networking gurus say is possible.

    In short, none of the current forms of technology are inherently evil. They don’t make a person be rude, or waste their time playing with imaginary farm implements. Actually, outside of making a living or raising a family, just about any pursuit could be called wasting time. It’s a perception thing. However, people need and seek pleasure, at whatever level. Technology supplies a new means to secure that ambition in very simple ways. In general, people tend to flow toward the path of least resistance to get what they need (not what they want). Getting what one wants (unless it happens to be what they need) takes more effort. Technology helps in both regards, but because of the ease it offers, people can get stuck in the spin cycle without realizing it. Dragging themselves out presents a major challenge.

    What I think people could use more of, are strong open-minded families and friends who help guide them in the ways of the world, interpersonal relationships, common sense morality, and the golden rule. The sense of self-worth is probably the most important thing a family and friends can help develop in a child, or even an adult. With that, a person can go out into the world (any part of the world) and be comfortable, open, confident, and challenged. They’ll be able to utilize all aspects of life to let creativity flow, no matter what technology they use.

  49. I think technology has just become another way to be distracted from each other. But I do think the problem is still person-driven. My mother spent my childhood actively ignoring me…and there wasn’t a Facebook in sight.

  50. When I was a kid in Charleston, SC, a long distance phone call was a big deal. “I’m on the phone with Washington!” My mother was always excited to get that call. It wasn’t the entire state of Washington, or even just the president. It was her father.

    The newest technology allowed her to talk and get an instant response, instead of waiting for a letter to arrive–a real letter, in an envelope with stamps. We will always be in love with any new technology that lets us feel more connected, a part of something bigger, a valuable contributor to the conversation. Some of us might even forget our manners while we use it, too. 😉

  51. Does your hoodie say FIWK?

    • mitzireinbold on March 12, 2013 at 8:49 am
    • Reply

    My parents (raised during the Depression) were distant just because that’s the way it was. My father came home late and so my sister and I usually had dinner first. We rarely ate out.
    However, technology did lead me to my present husband. We found each other on the Senior Singles website and he’s the love of my life. So I guess it does depend on how (and where) the technology is used.

  52. I think Technology really brings a barrier to relationship. I used to always be on the computer on ICQ, chat..etc., and was stuck in my room for hours. So now that i have an Iphone , it’s like i’m addicted to it. And my husband never interested in getting a smart phone, and it was my fault that i persuaded him to get it. Now he is on the phone playing games, watching movies all the time. He would be stuck in the washroom for hours and not come out!…it was hard to even want to talk to him cuz he is so focused on completed his level on Candy Crush!

    Now we have two young girls, 3.5 and 15 month old….and i find they watch us, and sees that we are all the phone all the time. One day, my daughter wanted me to watch tv with her, and i said “ok…sure!”. I sat beside her on the sofa and was messaging while watching with her..then she said to me ” Mom!….i don’t want you on the phone, focus with me!!!”…….from that point on, i realized i need to put down the phone….it really affects building a relationship with family……and the kids do notice… I do want to set a good example for my child, and i wouldn’t want my girls to be on the phone when they grow up at the dinner table……

    Therefore,……my husband and I had a talk….and we will put away the phone until the kids are asleep! even then..i request some attention from him!

  53. Reblogged this on Vitasoy125ml's Blog and commented:
    Something to think about…..

  54. Technology is a very real problem for the younger generation. I am a step-mother to teenagers and I struggle with this daily. Kids in general today cannot entertain themselves without having their phone/internet/tv 24/7. It makes me so frustrated and sad that they don’t and won’t communicate face-to-face with people. Unfortunately in my case, I came into the picture so late in the game that my attempts to change what is happening in my home has led to a lot of animosity and anger which has divided me from my step-sons. I wish for things to be different.

  55. I’ve been thinking about this myself lately. After your reminder of how we’ve always experienced ways of being ignored I think technology isn’t that bad. For the most part, when I’m using technology I am connecting, in some way, to others. Even my kids and I connect through facebook, etc. So, that leaves me feeling better about it. On the other hand, nothing beats face to face sharing. I still need to disconnect more.

    • Rachel Thompson on March 12, 2013 at 3:50 pm
    • Reply

    Sounds like the typical dysfunctional family communicating via actions rather than words. People tend to not face each other. Work indulgence is a symptom, not the cause. Self absorption is easier than straight forward communication, always was and always will be no matter the chosen method, i.e. work, text, or TV; it all represents the same psychology. Maybe dad burred his face in books because he couldn’t stand his life- escapism is common, too.
    if you want attention, demand it. All it takes is the balls to do it. Writers don’t have to be timid to be writers. The writers that make public waves get paid more often, even with crap work. Why do right wing minorities control politics- they scream loudest.

  56. Everso valid. Priorities are screwed when one places faceless internet friends, and media in general, way above family communication.

  57. Technology has so much potential do bring us closer together, and yet it has mainly driven us apart. Everyone has to decide how to use it!

  58. Ever the eternal optimist, perhaps technology will us help us find our better selves, ultimately. Our immediate online connection with one another is revealing us to ourselves, meaning our words may not be written in stone but words in the ether are for eternity. Maybe technology will finally improve the way we use words; after that, maybe our manners will improve as well. Beautiful and thoughtful post, Kristen.


  59. One of the biggest problems I see with social media is the feedback loop. Whether it is a “like” on Facebook or Instagram, or a “favorite” or “retweet” on Twitter, social media is designed to become a habit. I’ve had friends tell me they get frustrated if they don’t get enough likes. Some people check their cell phones or laptops excessively for feedback. So while the technology is not entirely to blame, there is no doubt in my mind social media was designed with habits in mind..

  60. Technology is a tool. Neutral. Just there. The way we use tech can be the problem. Overuse is the biggest problem, i.m.o. People hide behind tech because it’s easier than having a real relationship with real people. All things in moderation is a good philosophy regarding tech.


  61. I never thought about it this way, Kristen, but it makes a lot of sense. My dad worked all day and got home at dinnertime, much like yours. BUT… at the dinner table and during the evening hours following dinner until our bedtime, he fully engaged with my sister and I, by his choice. Which is probably why technology in restaurants and my husband watching TV all evening makes me absolutely ape-sh*&% batty now! Thank you for the perspective!

  62. I am coming to this one late, but had to think of what I could add to the conversation here. Technology is not, in and of itself, the issue. People are the issue. We enjoy the anonymity, we hide behind it and use it as an excuse for behaviors most would not exhibit in face to face exchanges. Yet it has some wonderful advantages in helping us connect as well. My oldest daughter lives a thousand miles from me. I have littles still at home, school, work, money issues… all the things in life that conspire to keep people from being together. But we have Skype…and with it I can see my daughter whenever we want.
    The same applies in some ways to the new technologies for books. Love them or hate them, they both disconnect readers from the ability to easily find new authors to love, and allow new writers to publish books without a publisher (sometimes…maybe even often…before the writer is actually “ready” to make that step…but as you have told us in your blog “live and learn and do better next time”
    Thank you for your posts. I enjoy them.

  63. Yes! No questions about this. Blame, the invention of TV, then, soon came ~ Pac Man…

  1. […] ps – here’s a good post about this very thing: […]

  2. […] Is Technology to Blame for Emotional Barriers?. […]

  3. […] have, though, also read some really great posts about technology (check out Kristin Lamb’s post) , and how rather than tearing us apart, perhaps we should use it to really, you know, socialize. […]

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