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Posted by: Casey Saxton on Aug 29, 2013

Ask a Specialist: Family Connections in Twitter Times

Ask a Specialist: Family Connections in Twitter Times

By: Naomi Brower, Utah State University Extension associate professor

Technology has revolutionized the way people interact and has created a variety of implications for relationships. For example, texting has become the number one way many couples stay in touch, and many individuals initiate dates, argue and even end relationships through text messages. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, provide a way to connect to family and friends but can also create temptations and relationship problems when individuals reconnect with old love interests or connect with new potential romantic interests. Others use the Internet as a way to connect through creating online relationships that may distract and hinder them from having real-world connections.  
 
So how do we stay connected and protect our relationships in an increasingly technological world? Consider these tips.
 
• Set boundaries. In a healthy relationship, couples should be able to be open and honest with each other about who they are communicating with, and there should be boundaries and expectations about what is considered an appropriate relationship with others. Depending on what the couple feels comfortable with, it might be best to limit the amount of interaction with members of the opposite sex. Couples may also want to discuss the appropriate amount of information they will disclose about their relationship to others. For example, couples may agree to share with others only the positives about their partner to avoid the long-term damage that can occur when something negative is shared during a moment of conflict.
 
• Unplug. Decide on and create technology-free zones and times when family members turn off all electronic devices and spend time together. For example, don’t allow electronic devices at the dinner table. It is becoming increasingly common in many households to use cell phones or other electronic devices to talk to others (or even each other!) at the dinner table. When we set down the technology, we can better connect with those around us and more fully enjoy the moments with those we care about.
 
• Communicate in person. When a conversation is important or personal, take time to discuss the issue in person. More than half our communication is shared through body language, including eye contact, which is generally not possible to pick up on when communicating through technology. While many individuals include emoticons in their digital messages to share their expressions, without communicating in person, we risk a much higher chance of miscommunication and frustration. Taking time to talk face to face not only helps us better understand each other, but it also communicates that the relationship is valuable.
 
• Use technology to bond. While technology is not the ideal way to share highly important or personal messages, it can be a great way to stay connected during the day or while traveling for work. For example, send a text message letting someone you love know you are thinking about them, or share something you appreciate about them. Send a picture to your loved one of something you think would make him or her laugh. Share something you love about your partner on Facebook or Twitter for the entire world to see. Use your smart phone to schedule date nights or time together and sync your calendars regularly. If your partner has to travel and has access to a laptop, use Skype or other programs to chat free of charge.
 
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Direct column topics to Julene Reese, Utah State University Extension writer, Logan, Utah, 84322-4900, 435-797-0810; julene.reese@usu.edu

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