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Aug 20, 2013

Love yourself before technology

Human beings long connected-ness. It has been our nature to need and want social relationships since our creation but times have changed from when TV’s, video games, cellphones, and the Internet weren’t around. Nowadays, technology is everywhere. Most adolescents and adults can’t live without it. We are constantly checking our computers or smartphones for new e-mails, Instagram pictures, Whatsapp messages, and a new “like” or comment on Facebook. But what are some of the consequences? While technology helps us network and stay connected, it may also be hurting our relationship with ourselves and others.

One way that technology may be hurting our relationship with ourselves is through the networking site, Facebook. While Facebook may be a great resource to stay connected with your loved ones and acquaintances, find resources, and stay up to date on social events, it may also lead us to compare ourselves to our Facebook friends happy-go-lucky lifestyles. The article “Can Less Time on Facebook Increase Your Happiness? Yes!” by Preston Ni illustrates my point.

As most of us know but usually forget, people on Facebook tend to post events in their lives in a solely positive light. We constantly ignore that “Facebook profiles are often nothing more than social billboards” as Ni states. Facebook users filter and edit what they want to portray and not what we believe is all there is to their lives. Consequently, as we spend more and more time on Facebook we start to feel dissatisfied and miserable about our not so perfect life. In other words, we fail to see the struggles that others, too, face which negatively affects our self-esteem. Unfortunately with current technology Facebook is accessible through the reach of our pockets and most of us at some point fall into this trap.

Technology also could affect our relationship with others. Last week, I visited my dad’s side of the family north of Peru. I was very excited to spend three days with some of my closest aunts and uncles as well as some of my dearest cousins. I was anxious to hear and share with them what was new in our lives since last year and looked forward to our outings. To my disappointment, technology got in our way. A couple of my cousins couldn’t put down their phones as much I asked them to which resulted in limiting our interaction.

As many of our clients seek counseling because they struggle with their self-esteem along with their interpersonal relationships, it is important to explore how technology is affecting our clients’ lives as well as ours. Are our clients/us spending too much time in front of a computer? Are we/our clients anxious to check our cellphones during sessions and if so, is this affecting the therapeutic relationship? Do our clients get depressed when their friends get more “likes” in a picture/comment posted on Facebook? While technology has many benefits, we, as counselors, also need to make sure it is not hurting our clients or interfering in our self-care. We all could use an occasional reminder that it is ok to disconnect from others and find new ways to love ourselves. 
Alejandra Delgado is a counselor-in-training at the University of Florida. She volunteers as a Crisis Line Counselor and works as the School-Based Program Specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Florida. 

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