Are modern communication technologies diminishing our lives?

No matter what technology is invented to make our lives that little bit easier, the cost is that we are then forced to keep pace with it. Emails are quick – but then the result is that we spend time answering them all. Texting and messaging is so convenient – but then we have to check our messages constantly, and respond, in case there is something important.

Once you could shut the office door and leave all thoughts of work behind and you would have to relax. Now with smartphones, social media, high-speed broadband and other communications possibilities, we can no longer feel undisturbed in our own homes. This constant alertness leads to raised levels of cortisol in the brain. Cortisol is a chemical that is commonly known as the ‘stress hormone’.

Our social interactions and even our most basic relationships can be affected by new technology. Now people talk through communications devices, often replacing the heart-felt chat with a quick one-liner short-message text. Time for a ‘catch up’ – relaxation and de-stressing time – can be diminished by its new replacement: ‘hope u r ok. I’m fine. c u soon’

Humans are social animals. By interacting with others we gain a sense of belonging and being part of a group, be it family, friends or colleagues at work. Through these interactions, we learn to understand body language, develop empathy, feel loved and can give love. We are better at developing healthy, reciprocal relationships. All this leads to a greater sense of happiness and well being.

There are concerns at the moment that children who spend a great deal of time on the Internet, playing computer games or watching television, rather than interacting with others, might not be as socially skilled as those with more tempered habits. When these skills are not learned properly or forgotten, it is hard to communicate with others, which can lead to social anxiety, isolation – in order to avoid stressful social situations – and this could ultimately spiral to depression.

It seems as if good communication is fundamental to happiness in all walks of life, at home, in relationships, with friends, at work, even on holiday. Without good communication, life can be more of a struggle, since we are unable to properly understand other people. However, communication takes practice and time, away from the distractions of modern technologies. Spending quality time with friends and family is time spent reconnecting with the important people in our lives and feeling part of something, not separate from it.

Modern technologies are amazing, but so are the people around us.