Modern technology provides us with a world of information at our fingertips and helps us easily keep in touch with family and friends who are miles away. But if you feel that cell phone use and social media have plenty of downsides, too, there is new research to support your point of view. A study presented recently at the 2018 American Psychological Association conference found that even modest use of digital technology over time can make a person distracted, drained and distant.
Researchers examining how technology use affects relationships noted, for example, that minor cell phone use during dinner with friends makes people distracted and less present in the moment. Spending time on a cell phone in social settings also tended to make the experience less enjoyable. This is a concern, given that many previous studies have repeatedly described the mental and physical health benefits of personal engagement with friends and relatives. Another aspect of the new study found that compassionate people spend less time on social media than people who are more self-centered and narcissistic. Likewise, people who have difficulty identifying, describing and processing their emotions tend to use social media much more than people who are in touch with their emotions.
Researchers suggest that part of the reason for this difference is that people who are less comfortable with their own emotions or with others’ emotions may prefer text-based interactions, which allow them time to process social and emotional information. The study involved less than 500 adults and college students, but researchers said the findings suggest that everyone could benefit from examining their own cell phone and social media use, and see if being a little less digitally connected might lead to fewer feelings of being distracted and distant from those around them.