Is Technology Destroying our Relationships?

by Jason Finkelstein- April 12, 2012 • 3:50 pm

A couple of years ago Pew ran an extensive study on how teens use their cellphones. If you want to see a quick breakdown of what they found, check out this infographic we made about it.

One interesting thing the survey found was that teens who talk on the phone a lot tend to have more close personal relationships with their family and friends.

This may seem counter-intuitive. Many experts like Sherry Turkle, claim that technological progress has had a mostly negative impact on people’s relationships. However, it turns out the results in the Pew survey weren’t just a fluke: they are a product of our biology.

The power of a mother’s voice

A recent study published in the academic journal Evolution and Human Behavior investigated the effects of technology on the communication and relations between mothers and their daughters.

The experimenters asked a group of young girls to take a challenging math test while three adults they didn’t know sat near them and watched. After the test was done, the girls talked with their mothers on the phone.

Researchers found that the simple act of hearing their mother’s voice caused a flood of the stress reducing hormones cortisol and oxytocin in the girls’ blood and helped relieve the pressure that had been sitting on their shoulders.

A nuanced view of how tech affects our social lives

The results of this study lead researchers conclude that there is a special quality to a mother’s voice that can instantly calm her kids. Even though the girls in the study were hearing the mother’s voice over the phone, it still had the same calming effects as if they were talking in person.

This goes to show that technology is not always bad for interpersonal relationships as some experts claim. In fact, in some cases it can serve as a medium to strengthen our most primal emotional bonds.

What do you think? Is technology bringing us together or driving us apart?

Photo via D. Sharon Pruitt.

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