This BBC article shares results of a study indicating that “There are positive links between access to technology andfeelings of well-being, a study claims.” The findings further show this effect is more strongly linked with gender and income than with age. Women and lower income people of both genders seem to experience the most emotional benefit from access to technology, possibly because it provides opportunity to connect socially where otherwise people would be constrained by their family role or social rank. Another hypothesis is that the access to technology or ownership of devices is a status symbol.
The findings seem to contradict the concern growing in the media that technology disconnects us from real relationships, from true communication, and from genuine connection with other humans. Especially among the young, people send more texts than phone calls. In fact, just today the New York Times published this article explaining that “although almost 90 percent of households in the United States now have a cellphone, the growth in voice minutes used by consumers has stagnated, according to government and industry data.” Well, true, but phone calls are interruptive and time-consuming. As a confirmed introvert I can tell you that talking on the phone is one of my least favorite pastimes (and retrieving voice mails is high up on that list as well). I connect well online – on Facebook, by email, via text messages – and probably much more than I would have otherwise connected with friends from the past or new friends where a relationship is just building. So it makes perfect sense to me that technology facilitates happiness for people who would otherwise be isolated or inclined to turn inward rather than connect in an extroverted manner.
Psychologically we know that people who connect with others, who maintain significant relationships over time, who have genuine communities of people who share interests, ideas, concerns and emotions are happier over the long run than those who do not. The mechanism by which they do this seems unimportant to me. Pony express, coffee house, telephone, text, social media… pick your channel and reach out. You’ll be happier for it.