Technology Takes Relationships the Distance

by Alli Polin on September 27, 2013

Technology should not replace our need for human connection but facilitate relationships

My baby brother is getting married on Saturday night.  He’s going to walk down the aisle, as will his awesome wife to be, they’ll exchange vows and celebrate their love and commitment.  All of this is going to happen on Long Island in NY and I’ll still be in Central Australia… but I’ll also be at their wedding.  I’m going to sit with my family and together we’ll see the flower girl throw the petals, see my parents walk with my brother, and hear every word.  How?  FaceTime. Technology is amazing.

While technology has certainly taken over our lives in many ways with round-the-clock access to information, and to each other, it has also made the world a smaller, more personally connected place and brought people closer.

We get to choose: Does technology facilitate relationships or does it replace them? (Click to Tweet)

Technology Can Take Relationships the Distance

I’ve made many friends on Twitter (yes, real friends – let’s not debate it here).  I also meet regularly with coaching clients on FaceTime and Skype enabling both of us to make eye contact and read body language.  Facebook is like a window into the lives of people who I knew when they were 16 despite the fact that I haven’t seen many of them in person since the day we graduated high school. Technology is amazing.

It’s Not All Roses and Unicorns

Yes, technology has dramatically changed the way we engage and connect and not all for the better – technology can definitely be a burden.  Round the clock tweets, IMs and emails make my phone sound like a pinball machine.  For some reason every ping and bing is as if it’s calling my name begging me to read and react immediately.  Technology is amazing but it’s up to us as human beings to decide if it makes our lives easier or harder.  

technology makes life easier or harder

Ask Yourself:

  • Does technology help take your relationship the distance or is it more like a constant roadblock to real connection because your smartphone appears more interesting than your partner, child, or employee?
  • How can you actually use technology more to enable you to spend less time on the road or in the air but still be present and engaged?
  • Technology can either be a friend of mindfulness (when you’re looking eye to eye at someone it’s hard to pretend you’re not multi-tasking) or it can be a foe, a constant distraction.  Which one is more common for you?

Make the Leap Action:

Technology can never replace a heart connection but it can facilitate it.  Use technology to focus on connection and building relationships instead of one way marketing signals and lots of noise in an already noisy room.  On social media, reply, engage, ask questions.  As for email, I promise, if it’s really that important they’ll pick up the good old-fashioned phone. Close the laptop and put down the phone once in a while to connect in the flesh with people who matter and deserve your full, undivided attention.

As for me, I’m looking forward to cuddling on the couch with my children and husband while we are magically transported to the wedding and reception.  It will be a joy to see their faces, hear the toasts, enjoy the cool music and be present, even when far away.

How have you tapped into technology to effectively build and deepen relationships?

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Bratcher September 27, 2013 at 7:04 am

Since I started blogging about 15 months ago, I have built amazing relationships with readers. I have also started reading amazing content from others, with Alli Polin being at the top of the list, and have grown personally in ways I could have never expected. Thanks for the reminder to unplug from time to time and I hope you enjoy the wedding. Looking forward to your follow up post when it’s over.

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Alli Polin September 27, 2013 at 8:08 am

I agree, Dave. I’ve learned so much from not only writing and sharing and engaging with people on my blog but from the diverse thinking from so many others around the world – like you! Technology is a lifeline that enables me to remain connected despite being far away. Ten years ago, if we had moved here, I don’t think I would have been very happy.

I will enjoy the wedding and am so excited that I can be there in spirit and virtually too! Thanks a bunch!

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Joy Guthrie September 27, 2013 at 10:53 am

What a great way to be able to share in such a special day! I approached this by setting times when I won’t check the beeps and rings from the various social media and email notifications. It can be hard to turn it all off; but, it is important too. We’ve been able to use Skype to keep the great grandparents connected with their great grandchildren. Social media and email was also especially helpful in keeping everyone in the loop during hard times too. Good post, Alli! Enjoy the wedding!

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Alli Polin September 29, 2013 at 8:27 am

Joy – great way to work it – setting times when the bings and beeps fall on deaf ears (or on mute!) Sounds like Social Media and tech has been a big connector for your family too. I felt kind of melancholy this weekend away from family for such an important event but it was awesome to be there on FaceTime! I even got to wave and say hello to family. It was a beautiful ceremony!

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Karin Hurt September 27, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Alli, I am continued to be amazed at how technology shortens the distance. The work we do to colloborate on writing over a google hangout is another good example. It’s amazing that we can work together on two other sides of the world as if we’re in the same room. I too have made “real” friends on twitter… no debate here. The challenge is keeping up with it all. Virtual and face to face relationships all require time and investment.

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Alli Polin September 29, 2013 at 8:29 am

Seriously amazing! I agree – hangouts make it like we’re in the same room and enable real conversation and collaboration. I love it! However… I also strongly agree on the flip side.. keeping up with it all is a huge time investment but relationships matter and are worth it. Key to make sure we don’t burn ourselves out along the way. Thanks, Karin!

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Terri Klass September 27, 2013 at 4:24 pm

I agree, Alli, that technology can cultivate strong relationships and learning partnerships. I never imagined I would be connecting in such a meaningful way with people from all over the globe.
I must tell you though, it has been a game changer to finally meet some of you face-to-face. That was so important for me to do and never thought it would happen.
But whether we are on skype or a hangout or commenting on our blogs, I feel so close to so many in a profound way.

Have fun at the wedding (it will be like you are there!) and be grateful for technology.

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Alli Polin September 29, 2013 at 8:31 am

Terri – I knew I liked you and connected with you on Social Media but lunch with you was simply hanging out with a friend. Took what I knew to be true in the virtual space and brought it to a new place. I think that’s because you are nothing short of your authentic self on social media. I think that’s key to developing relationships on an off line.

Wedding was beautiful! I was so happy to be there for my brother’s wedding in spirit and on the screen!

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Jon Mertz September 28, 2013 at 8:21 am

Alli,

Appreciate your points. Blogging has been a part of what I do for four years now, and the connections and relationships are amazing. When I meet someone in person, it is an old friendship and never disappointing. We need to be mindful in how we use (and how much) technology, but it does enable.

Thanks!

Jon

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Alli Polin September 29, 2013 at 8:33 am

Exactly what I’ve experienced too, Jon – like an old friendship when I’ve had an opportunity to meet with online friends offline. Blogging has been a fantastic way to really develop relationships and not just get a message out in the world too.

It’s when technology runs us instead of us consciously choosing how we leverage technology that things get really tough.

Appreciate your connection and insights, Jon!

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Alice Chan September 30, 2013 at 12:58 am

Congratulations to your brother, Alli! Funny thing, just commented on another blog post about technology and how it may have made us anti-social. The social impacts of tech must be in the air! This topic was my former life when I taught at Cornell. Anyway, I agree with you that tech use is all about what we make of it, rather than us being the passive recipient of technological determinism. All in all, technology is very enabling. When I think about the people I can stay in touch with easily and inexpensively, it’s a big plus. As a case in point, my dad in China basically can’t hear anymore. So, we keep in touch by texting–free over iphone–as I can’t call him. When I was active on Facebook, I could see what my sister-in-law in Hong Kong was up to on a fairly regular basis. So, again, tech can be very enabling, and it’s up to us as users to decide how to use tech as a tool, rather than let it run our lives and how we interact with others.

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Alli Polin September 30, 2013 at 7:54 am

An international life definitely calls on technology to stay connected to moments both big and small in ways I never imagined (or really consciously thought about). It truly is up to us if we use it for interaction, relationships and connection or for one way marketing messages on every platform imaginable. I prefer relationships every time.

Thanks, Alice!

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Dave Bratcher September 30, 2013 at 7:47 am

So… How was it Alli?

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Alli Polin September 30, 2013 at 7:52 am

You are too wonderful to ask, Dave! It was beautiful! My cousin held the iPad and did a great job of helping us to see and experience the entire wedding. It was funny, we saw the ceremony and “walked out” with the crowd and the wifi hotspot worked the entire time. As soon as the mingling began at the reception and people started talking to us, it dropped out! Timing was perfect.

Thanks, Dave!

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Callie October 1, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Alli, loved this post – thank heavens for technology, it’s enabled my Beloved and I to watch his niece & nephew grow up in a different continent (gotta love Skype!) inbetween yearly visits.

It’s Not All Roses and Unicorns – that could make for a great song title 😉

I hope your brother and his wife had a beautiful ceremony xxx

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Alli Polin October 1, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Yearly visits are great but technology can truly bring us together for moments big and small that when put together tell the story of our life. Linking continents is a GIFT!

My brother had an amazing wedding and the wifi held out for the entire ceremony. Felt truly lucky to be where I most wanted to be… with him, his wife, family and friends on his wedding day (Even virtually)

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