The human brain is literally wired to connect. As a result, it’s no surprise we’re obsessed with our phones. Humans have a basic need for food and shelter. Similarly, we have a fundamental need to form relationships and belong to a group. Smartphones make it easy for us to be social, regardless of our physical ability, geographic location, or age.

If being social is vital to our survival, then why does it seem like every expert on the planet decries the use of screen time and social media? For one, there is almost always backlash in response to new inventions. For example, when the telephone made it’s debut, people wondered if it would “break up home life.” This seems a little dramatic today. In addition, we fear what we don’t know or understand. And, right now, we don’t have conclusive evidence that smartphone use is objectively good or bad.

That being said, many of us have seen the “bad” side of technology, specifically that screen time affects the quality of our communication with people off-line. Phubbing, or snubbing someone in favor of your phone, threatens our fundamental need for belonging. So, how do we honor our need for connection in today’s world?

First, it’s important to acknowledge the benefits of both online and in-person connection. In addition, we must remember that there are many factors that influence our preference for online vs. in-person communication. Moreover, our preference might change over time! Above all, we must accept that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to connect. For all we know, our brain feels equally connected during in-person and online interactions. Here are some questions that may help you understand your unique needs for connection:

1). What do you like about connecting with people online? What do you like about connecting with people in-person?

2). Is it easier to talk to certain people online? Is it easier to talk to certain people in-person? Why do you think this is?

3). Have you ever experienced phubbing? What was it like? Consequently, did your experience change how you use technology?

4). Is there a difference between scrolling through social media and engaging with others through social media? How do you feel after scrolling? How do you feel after engaging?

5). What is your ideal balance of in-person and online connection? Has this changed over time? Finally, how do you think it will change in the future?

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