How many times have you been at a restaurant or bar and glance over at the couple or family sitting next to you, only to note that they’re buried in their phones, not speaking a word? For me, it’s far too often. However, it’s par for the course in this society, we’re addicted. It’s widely considered a cultural norm and most of the time, we laugh it off. We stare at the texting couple or our distracted friend and say, “Hey, that sucks — but, I get it.”
And isn’t that a little sad?
Well, someone has finally decided to put some numbers behind the actual damaging effects that technology is having on our relationships and the results are fairly depressing. “Crucial Conversations” author Joseph Grenny recently looked into what he calls “electronic displays of insensitivities,” or EDIs, and reported an astounding 89 percent of his VitalSmarts.com survey of 2,025 individuals reported that this behavior has damaged a personal relationship. Ninety-percent say “that at least once a week, their friends or family stop paying attention to them in favor of something happening on their digital devices,” and one in four say that it has caused a “serious rift.”
There could be an argument that this is a “young person’s problem” but interestingly, only two percent of surveyed respondents who gave their age were between 21-30. The overwhelming majority were between the ages of 41-60, which makes me wonder if a younger age pool was tested, would results be different?
The worst part is: We don’t seem to know how to deal with it. Grenny’s study also noted that the one-in-four portion of his respondents felt that they “suffer silently,” and reported “two out of three people have no idea how to confront an EDI.” Forty percent noted that they decided not to speak up because they thought the other person “would have become offended or angry.” Other popular reasons included that the respondent assumed they would be able to “escape/ignore” the situation or they “knew it would be over soon.”
Ironically, 90 percent of respondents also “agree you should not answer text messages or check social media profiles in public” — considering arenas such as church, the dinner table, and while driving a car. So why doesn’t this common courtesy extend to our own interpersonal interactions?
Grenny, who is by trade what he calls a “social scientist for business performance,” also gives advice for dealing with EDI-induced altercations, ranging from specifically asking a group to turn off their phones during a business meeting to passive-aggressively telling an offender, “That sounds important. I can come back later if you need to respond to that call or text.” But we think his advice for “modeling good behavior” and not perpetuating EDI is the best way to go — especially since he also reported 87 percent felt inappropriate technology use is worse now than it was a year before.
Turn off your ringer at dinner with mom and dad. Don’t Instagram your meal with friends. Don’t live tweet your date. A cell phone is not your last bastion of society. In fact, real life social interaction is probably sitting right in front of you.
H/t The Daily BeastRachel Raczka can be reached at email@example.com and tweeted @RachelRaczka.