Want to Strengthen Your Friendships? Then Ditch the Technology.

One travel writer goes to Fiji and discovers that connecting with new friends requires her to shut down her smart phone.
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happy woman texting cell phone

It’s no secret that I’m totally reliant on my electronic devices. In fact, I wrote an article for YouBeauty last year about an experiment to nix social media for a week. I nailed the task, but sunk back into my junkie-like addictions within a month’s time.

The truth is, technology makes me feel secure. I like knowing what’s going on in my friends’ lives, keeping up with old classmates and feeling as if I have more friends by using social media. (The numbers say so, right?)

But something happened to me recently that kind of changed my life. Rather than giving up Facebook for Lent (been there) or promising not to check email for the weekend (done that), I let go of technology for human interaction—and in turn, I tuned into the human spirit.

Taking a Vacation From Technology

Here’s how it went down: I was on a trip to Fiji with five fellow journalists, all of whom were strangers. We were relaxing at the Wakaya Islands Club and Spa, a resort on a tiny island with cozy bures, or cottages, and a village within walking distance. We spent hours gazing upon the crystalline ocean and luxuriating in top-notch service. But there was no way to connect online—and we were all strangers among the locals. I couldn’t rely on a comforting glance at my iPhone during awkward conversation or retreat to my living room to stalk my newsfeed. I had a bar in my room (with champagne!), but no one to share it with and no way to show it off on Instagram. The first day on this island should have been paradise, but it felt more like panic.

Read Break the Rules! 7 Unconventional Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship

Making the Change (And Going Old-School)

But then something happened. Our group of strangers started learning from the locals. People in Fiji don’t walk around with their heads down, furiously texting their friends; they meet them at the dinner table. They look each other in the eye when they speak to you and smile while they’re walking down the street. And they laugh. A lot.

Art Markman, Ph.D., YouBeauty Psychology Advisor, says that human communication, which is the root of our ability to have relationships, is designed for a small number of people to have a face-to face conversation in real time. He explains that one of the reasons why people often feel like the friendships that they carry out online are unsatisfying is because they’re missing what makes communication successful. “If you’re really going to engage in a relationship with anyone, you have to spend time in the same place at the same time,” says Markman. “That means ditching technology—at least for a while.”

Surprisingly, this way of life crept into our own. The group of journalists began to voluntarily meet for dinner. And dinner led to drinks. We showed up promptly without a text or email to excuse us from being late and began to learn about each other’s lives, venting about breakups and trading advice on raising children. There was no phone to peek at and no voicemails to check.

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