Technology use and intimacy development in committed relationships: Exploring the influence of differentiation of self
Henline, Branden Hayes
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Contemporary relationships now exist within the context of technology saturated homes and lifestyles. Evidence exists to suggest that modern technology, including television, cellular phones, computers and the Internet, can be used in ways that cause and perpetuate problems in committed relationships. Conversely, existing research suggests that such technologies can be employed to facilitate relationship formation, maintenance, and growth. Nevertheless, it has previously been uncertain what determines whether individuals use current technologies in relationship promoting or inhibiting ways. This study involved 323 participants in committed relationships who were surveyed to assess individual differentiation of self, personal access and uses of technology, and types and levels of intimacy within their committed relationships. Additionally, participants were asked to describe any perceived or experienced benefits and harms of technology use within their relationships. Results from this study suggest that greater differentiation of self is related to lower amounts of both solitary and conjoint technology use as well as with higher levels of emotional, social, sexual, intellectual, and recreational intimacy. Additionally, higher amounts of solitary technology use are associated with poor intimacy in committed relationships. Conversely, conjoint technology use between committed partners can strengthen intimacy in the relationships, particularly, intellectual intimacy. In short, technology can be used both in ways that benefit and in ways that detract from committed relationships. The interpersonal and intrapersonal dynamics of differentiation of self appear to at least partially control whether technology is used in intimacy promoting or intimacy inhibiting ways. Conclusions and implications of this study are given.