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Tech Shock: Michelle Drouin on how tech influences relationships and intimacy

In this week’s episode of the Tech Shock podcast, Vicki and Geraldine speak to Dr Michelle Drouin, associate professor of psychology at Indiana University and author of Out of Touch: How to Survive an Intimacy Famine. They discuss the ways in which tech is influencing our relationships.

Phones and social media have become an integral part of life. While this is not entirely a bad thing, Drouin says smartphones are having a dramatic impact on our intimate lives.

“We’re being drawn into our devices which allow us a certain amount of social stimulation, but it’s very little, it’s these tiny hits of dopamine from comments and text messages,” she says. “But we're missing out on the richer, more immersive experiences we might get from spending time with people.”

Missing out isn’t the only concern. Drouin explains how an overreliance on tech can leave the loved ones in our physical lives feeling replaced by a phone and a virtual world. 

“When you choose to look at your phone rather than engage with whatever conversation partner is there, they get a symbol that that phone is more important to you than they are,” she says. “And that’s the rebuff, that’s a feeling of rejection.”

Perhaps there’s a good reason for that feeling. Drouin’s research shows that many people have what she calls ‘back-burner’ relationships. They may never amount to anything, but can be very damaging. 

“The phone has opened up the world in a way that never existed before, and that’s helped to widen our social circles,” she says. “When you get distracted by those partners who present themselves as a ‘maybe’ alternative, it could pose a threat to your current relationship.”

Listen to Series 3, Episode 7 to hear the full podcast.    

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