In Monday’s posting on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we encouraged you to consider the significance of choices you make in the digital age – their effects not only on your relationships with others, but also with yourself. Today, we’d like to give you a chance to identify the specific ways in which the digital age has changed your life. Sherry Turkle, one of the country’s foremost experts on the social effects of virtual communication, writes the following in the introduction to her book, Alone Together:

As we distribute ourselves, we may abandon ourselves. Sometimes people experience no sense of having communicated after hours of connection. And they report feelings of closeness when they are paying little attention. In all of this, there is a nagging question: Does virtual intimacy degrade our experience of the other kind and, indeed, of all encounters, of any kind?

Whether or not we frequently or regularly use digital media, we’ve all been undeniably and permanently altered by our experiences in virtual communication. Habituated to connecting with others online in today’s high-tech social reality, the culture of our relationships to ourselves and to others has significantly shifted. We invite you to take some time to examine the ways in which you’ve been changed by the digital revolution. 

Below are some important questions to ask yourself:

How has your experience affected your life? How has it changed… 

… your priorities in life?
… the way you relate to your partner?
…. the way you relate to your role in your family? 
… your experience at work?
… your feeling of distance or closeness to your colleagues? 
… the way you feel about the future – more or less optimistic? 
… your relationship with friends or relatives? 
… your feeling of connection to your loved ones? 
… your sense of security or stability in the world? 
… your experience of time (paying more/less attention to things happening in the moment)? 
… your daily mood?
… what you need for yourself? 

Our participation in the digital world comes with great benefits and great costs. As with all things, we must practice moderation. Plugging in can be great, as long as we can unplug. Control is key.

To spend too much time “plugged-in” is to invite problems into your personal life.

If you get into the mode of constant virtual connection, your communications with others in both the virtual and the physical world may start to feel taxing. When you overextend yourself and deny yourself opportunities to relax, your stress affects not only your mind but your body. 

When you neglect your body’s need for exercise, sleep, and a healthy diet, your lifestyle choices can lead to physical illness. When Dr. John Gottman talks about the paradoxical need for selfishness in marriage, he speaks of just this, and adds, “Overwork and continual self-sacrifice lead to resentment, emotional distance, and loss of sexual intimacy.” 

For Friday’s Weekend Homework Assignment, look forward to an exercise written by Dr. Gottman himself – an opportunity to reconnect with what is most important to you.

More in The Digital Age
The Digital Age: How Has It Changed Your Life?

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.