Living Columns & Blogs

Are you being uncoupled by social media?

I’m concerned. As a licensed marriage and family therapist, I’m privy to the relational world that people live in. What I hear can be discouraging. Folks are becoming disconnected, uncoupled. No surprise there, but the operational nature of the rising dysfunction might offend. Toes may get stepped on — so get ready.

First, I’m an immigrant. Folks born before 1980 are foreigners to the digital world we live in. Those of you reading this on a screen may think you are natives, but only the folks born after that year can truly claim that moniker. The natives will struggle with what I’m saying; the immigrants will nod in agreement.

Like doctors seeing so many obese people in their offices, I’m concerned about the disconnected people in my office. It seems to me that the experience of social media has placed an unnatural divide between people.

When someone reports they have friends but they encountered them online and maintain the friendship online, I get concerned. Even the language gets wobbly. They say they talk, but that’s not what they mean. They’re typing. In this very complicated world, technology gets used as an intentional barrier. Safety is highlighted at the cost of intimacy.

Automatically adding static to the communication, friendship becomes two-dimensional. In my estimation, a heart-to-heart and face-to-face conversation communicates subtly what no text message or even phone call could carry.

A second concern of this disconnected attitude is similar but different. By the way, it is almost like fish in water; they don’t even know it’s the sea they’re swimming in. From this disconnected attitude, the sexual experience has become detached and individualized.

In service of the survival of the species, pair bonding has provided for emotional attachment that generally provided a safe environment from which the little bitty human attains maturity. Succinctly said, children are hatched out of families. The instinctual urge to procreate provides the nucleus for pair bonding, then family, then healthy humans to continue the cycle.

In our post sexual revolution world, we have moved away from this central reality to the option for choice. Now we see that sexual encounter — no longer connected to procreation — is also no longer connected to pair bonding. Sexual fidelity used to be a core component of the committed relationship. This assumption of immigrants is not taken by the natives.

Sexuality has become an expression of individualized choice. The natural outcome is the emptiness of addiction and the guilt-ridden confusion of multiple meaningless partners.

Let’s just blame it on screens. We lose a lot when we get our social and intimacy needs met while looking at a screen. So, one final point: The digital world uncouples us from the experiential world. We are no longer organically connected.

Disconnected from the earth and each other, the external world, we become uncoupled from ourselves in our internal world. This is when our soul suffers. Without soul, morality suffers, and without this grounding in our body and soul, the whole world suffers.

Don’t believe the screen, believe the challenging, loving eyes of your partner.

Bruce Conn is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and works with individuals and couples. Contact him at or call 478-742-1464.