“The other side of words”: Technoférence


Digital tools now punctuate our daily lives. Smartphones, computers and social networks allow us to communicate instantly with people all over the world, to share information and experiences, to work remotely, to organize our personal and professional lives, and even to make romantic encounters. .

However, this omnipresence can have negative effects on our social relationships. Indeed, when we use them in the presence of others, digital tools can interfere with our face-to-face interactions. To describe this phenomenon of technological interference, Brandon McDaniel in 2014 proposed the term technoference . Described within the couple relationship and then within the parent-child and co-parenting relationship , technoference corresponds to the “moments when technological devices interfere, interrupt and/or hinder communication and interactions as a couple or as a family in daily life “.

Technoference encompasses, but is not limited to, situations of phubbing (contraction of “phone snubbing”, ie telephone and snub) which consists of paying more attention to your phone than to the person you are with.

Several factors of technoference are beginning to be identified in the scientific literature. We can in particular cite the fact of having a very important, even problematic, use of his smartphone , of having difficulties in delimiting boundaries between his digital uses and other activities. The disruptive aspect of notifications as well as the design of certain applications and games that can capture attention would also contribute to this.

However, not everyone has the same perception of these interferences. Within the couple, this can vary according to individual factors, such as having an insecure attachment (that is to say, of the anxious type) towards his or her partner. Having children with behavioral difficulties , perceiving their child as difficult or feeling parental stress could also lead to parental technoference behaviors.

Technoference can affect the quality of direct exchanges. By reducing the attention given to the other, it leads to the paradox of presence-absence where the person is physically present but partially absent psychically. In the relationship, it goes hand in hand with more conflict and less satisfaction in the relationship . When there are children in the couple, it is also associated with the perception of a poorer co-parenting relationship.

Between parents and children, technoference is linked to a lesser availability of the parent and leads to harsher responses when the child misbehaves. Technoference is also associated with a lower quality attachment or parent-child relationship in young children , school-aged children or adolescents . We also observe more expressions of negative affect in toddlers when the exchanges are interrupted and more behavioral problems in children and adolescents . However, longitudinal studiesshow that the links between technoference and behavioral difficulties in children and adolescents are often two-way, one causing the other, and vice versa.

Being aware of your digital uses and knowing how to put your smartphone down when you are with someone can limit these inconveniences. Some teenagers would have started to go down this path and give up their smartphones …

Author Bio: Marie Danet is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Lille