My husband and I picked up a book called The Tech-Wise Family this winter and began to intentionally set boundaries around our technology use. We still love a good television show and can certainly bond over a funny YouTube video, but we felt like there was this unseen third person in our relationship that kept us from the intimacy we desired.

As we read and discussed, I realized that many of these principles could be applied to our friendships, as well. We are well aware of the complications technology has added to our ability to connect with others so, I am including a few yays and nays of technology in friendship. We all need some encouragement to push past our phone security blanket to get to the heart of our friends.

The Yays

Sending Virtual Hugs on a Regular Basis

I have a handful of long-distance friends that have remained close because of technology. I love leaving voice messages of encouragement for friends to listen to later. Sending inside jokes or catching up is a lot easier when we can instantly comment on a friend’s photo online or send a text message. Even Facetime has allowed me to stay connected on a deeper level with friends I may only see once a year. There is no doubt that technology aids our quest to stay connected and experience fruitful friendships.

Using Technology to Enhance the Conversation

This one is still so-so for me but I do see a positive in allowing phones to help us look up answers or research a topic. But, as long as we are using our technology together and with a purpose rather than “aimlessly and alone” then we are starting to move in the right direction.

The Nays

Allowing Your Phone to Become a Crutch

Phones have become our silence fillers. I notice that when I am having lunch with a friend (or my husband) and I get up to go to the restroom, they automatically pick up their phones because it is just too awkward to sit there alone. But, unfortunately, we pick up our phone even when the person is still sitting next to us because the conversation has come to a stop or we have run through the typical “how are you doing” questions.

There is a study by author Sherry Turkle who says to get to authentic conversation, we have to push through the first seven minutes. Sadly, with phones, we get to the seven-minute mark, pick up our phones and then start the process all over again never allowing us to make space and silence for the in-depth conversation to come. Our desire to be known and know others can’t happen if we don’t allow for uncomfortable and real moments without our phones to fall back on.

Allowing Technology to Keep You From A Rewarding Experience

Have you ever hiked with a friend and felt like your mind, body and soul were strengthened afterwards? Or perhaps, you belong to a group that plays music together and the connection you’ve built with those people is rewarding. Have you also had a movie marathon with a friend, where you laid on the couch with your phones all day because it was a lazy Saturday of fun? I’ve done a variety of both leisurely and laboring activities with friends and there is vast difference in the connection that was created from each.

God created us to work. To use our hands. To think creatively. To play outdoors. When we were kids, an afternoon running around with the neighborhood crew felt so good but now as adults we wonder why the joy and rewarding parts of friendship just don’t fill us up. If I’m honest, a lot of my friend time is spent in front of the television or impacted by our flashing little screens. We finish watching a movie feeling more exhausted and disconnected than when we started.

But, after a weekend of camping or planting flowers together we feel relationally full. Our time together was rewarding, and our friendship was that much closer. Why? Because working with our bodies or doing hard things pushes our brains to engage with what is in front of us—our friends.

Any steps you take to disengage with technology is going to be a struggle. It’s literally everywhere and it’s much easier thing to do than choosing to fully engage with other people. So, find some friends who would be interested in “putting technology in its proper place” with you and fight the temptation to lean on technology when building relationships demand more from you. We want to create friendships that are built on something more lasting and meaningful than what technology has to offer. If you are interested in reading more about technologies’ effects on relationships, I recommend The Tech-Wise Family and Reclaiming Conversation.

What steps are you taking to balance technology and your friendships?