By Dr. Mike Austin

As a professor, I detest getting papers with text message jargon in them.Always use “because” and not “B/C”!

Putting professorial pet peeves aside, I am concerned about the negative impact technology can have on one of the most important things in our lives-our relationships.

This is not because I am anti-technology. I like technology.

I use my cell phone.I listen to 80’s college rock, Coldplay, and U2 on my iPod.

I have a Twitter account, stay connected to old friends on Facebook, and contribute to several blogs.

I also like the fact that if I miss an episode of LOST I can catch it later on Hulu.

But I am wary of the impact that technology seems to be having on the quality of our lives.

When I was in college, we didn’t have a constant stream of text messages, Tweets, or Facebook status updates to keep us informed about the happenings in our friends’ lives.

We would actually hang out in the same physical space, sharing our lives at the local coffee shop or Fast Eddie’s pool hall.

But what’s left to talk about when you’ve sent all of the details of your life to your friends in pixel form?

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said that without friends, no one would choose to live. I would add that without good communication, no one will have truly good friends.

This is where a problem with technology comes into play. It can hinder good communication.

Dependence on technology can be a liability in our personal relationships.

In any friendship or long-term romantic relationship, conflict is bound to happen. For whatever reason, probably because it seems easier than trying to resolve it face to face, we send a text or email to deal with the issue.

The problem is that this is actually a barrier to accurate communication, which is important for any deep and honest relationship.

In conflict, and in all communication really, we depend on more than words.

We also depend on tone of speech, facial cues, and body language to help us accurately understand and interpret what someone is saying and how they are feeling.

Relying on information technology removes all of this. It also makes it easier to be abrupt, caustic, and cruel.

In the end, it really isn’t easier. It actually makes good communication more difficult.

So what is my point?

We all need a little less screen time and more time in face-to-face interactions with the people in your life.

It will make you happier and more fulfilled. SYL.

Dr. Mike Austin
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy and Religion