Modern technology: Chapel, mental health clinic provide input on impact on relationships

  • Published
  • By Holly Logan-Arrington
  • Robins Public Affairs
It's happened to most people at one time or another.

You're having lunch with a friend and your conversation is interrupted by the repeated sound signaling your friend has received a text message. Suddenly, your interaction has been lost to a text messaging marathon.

Staff Sgt. Jeff Rybold, Robins Air Force Base chaplain's assistant, said he thinks technology should be kept in check.

"When a device becomes more of a priority than the people around you, it's a problem," he said.

Robins Chaplain (Capt.) Matt Spencer, agreed and said people often get so involved with smart phones and other such devices that they disconnect with the people around them, ultimately hurting interpersonal relationships.

People can become so caught up with what's on their phone that they feel the need to continually be on it, he said. "It's almost like, not getting on your phone will make your morning incomplete." 

People with such an addiction tend to disconnect with those around them and feel empty unless they're on their phone, Spencer said.

As with marital, abuse, and other problems, intervention is often necessary. Rybold said chaplains offer family counseling to active-duty service members that is protected by privileged communication.

"This counseling emphasizes the importance of the family and interpersonal relationships for airmen and their family members," Rybold said.

Lt. Cdr. Sara Pulliam, Robins' Mental Health Clinic psychological health director, said if an airman or dependent wants to reduce time spent on technology but is having difficulty doing so, therapy can be accessed through the Airman & Family Readiness Center's military family life consultants, Military One Source, the 78th Medical Group's Family Health Clinic Behavioral Health Optimization Program and the Mental Health Clinic.

While civilians and contractors aren't eligible for the chapel's counseling services, Spencer said the chapel can provide referrals to off-base resources for help.
Quality time with loved ones can help people avoid problems.

"It's important to set time aside for activities like reading a book, playing sports and other hobbies that can help take our mind off of everyday technology," Spencer said.
The chapel offers a variety of opportunities for families to grow together and build unity apart from technology.

"The Chapel hosts various resiliency events throughout the year for airmen and their authorized dependents," Rybold said. "Often, these events take advantage of the great outdoors, a time away from email, social media and other technology-driven activities. We focus on building unity, emphasizing the importance of family spiritual fitness as well as expressing the importance of having fun." 

Rybold said when used the right way, today's technologies can be used to enhance interpersonal relationships.

"They can be used to keep in contact with our children, to keep up with family that is geographically separated, and maintain relationships with loved ones all over the world - whether stateside or deployed," he said. "Safety measures discussed with the family can ensure a safe family environment."

Spencer said balancing one's desire to connect through technology and the need to connect with other people face-to-face is the key.

"What we don't want to see happen is for families to become totally reliant on technology to communicate," he said. "As with anything, a healthy balance is necessary. We need to build strong, articulate leaders who can thrive in any environment."