Tech and Relationships
Last week, I introduced ecological theory as a framework for exploring our relationships with technology. This week, I’ll take a closer look at the micro- and mesosystems which are the closest to us and have the most impact on our lives. While I write from my perspective, I encourage you to follow along, to explore how tech impacts your micro- and mesosystems.
Microsystem - the people, groups and entities closest to us
To start my exploration, I first took notes, listing out the people, groups and entities closest to me—this is my microsystem. It took a few iterations to decide that the easiest approach is to simplify my microsystem into four main groups:
Your microsystem may be similar. Other common additions to one’s microsystem are: school and church.
If you’re feeling up for the challenge, you can break up each of these main categories into subcategories. For example, I could break up my family into: parents, siblings, extended family; my friend groups into Bay Area, Chicago, online, other; my communities into Elpha, Workfrom, Twitter, Trestle Glen, Tech, Entrepreneurship, Hiking, Ponder. It gets much harder to conceptualize the more detail you add, but it can be a fun exercise to acknowledge who and what is in your microsystem.
Mesosystem - interactions within our microsystem
Next, I drew connections where my microsystem groups interact, as applicable. This is my mesosystem.
This is what my mesosystem looks like. I have a lot of interaction across my microsystem so my mesosystem is well connected.
One thing I discovered in this activity, is that my mesosystem is fairly well connected. One reason for this is Dave—my partner in all things. Dave is my life partner and thus foundational in my sense of family. He is also my best friend and part of various groups of shared friends. Dave and I overlap in communities we belong to (tech, entrepreneurship, Ponder, Trestle Glen, and Twitter). And Dave and I work together.
As far as other connections in my mesosystem, here’s why I drew relationships across all of my microsystem groups:
- Some family are friends; and some friends are family. In other words, I have some close relationships that transcend these boundaries, and at times, my friends and family interact.
- I work with some of my friends, have become friends with people I work with, and will become friends with folks I work with in the future.
- I have community through work, namely through Ponder and currently growing into a community of entrepreneurs. Some of these community relationships will also transition into friendships.
- I meet new friends through communities, and my friendships are often part of larger communities.
I’ve experienced a lot of change in my life recently when it comes to work and community, so I’m interested in how my mesosystem will continue to evolve and where I’ll see more connections pop up. For the time being, I’m encouraging and strengthening my relationships as they grow—it’s enjoyable to cultivate a solid, connected mesosystem.
Where Does Tech Come In?
After identifying my microsystem entities, and relationships between these entities—my mesosystem—I wrote down all of the tech tools that I use to facilitate these relationships. I came up with a fairly long list because of all of the work tooling I use. For the sake of simplicity, I share below the most common tools that facilitate interaction within my mesosystem.
At this point, I could do a deeper dive into how each tool impacts my relationships—but this could get a bit tedious. For now, I’m encouraging myself to think more about how I use these tools. This is something you can do, too. When you are using technology to connect to people, ask yourself questions like:
- What do I like or dislike about how tech is facilitating this interaction?
- What do I appreciate or what am I grateful for about tech’s role in my relationships?
- Are there aspects of tech that are frustrating or make me feel less connected than I would like?
- How can I be more aware of how and when I’m using tools for connectivity?
I promise you one thing—if you bring intentionality into how you connect with people, noticing the role technology plays in your life, you will experience a shift in perspective. I cannot promise what that shift will be like, but you will begin to notice little things and even the smallest shift in experience can have a major impact in our lives.
So the next time you pick up the phone, or jump on Slack, or sign-in to Twitter, take a look around—notice your experience of connecting with people using these tools. Write about it. Talk about it.
Just don’t take tech for granted or ignore it—for better or for worse, tech is in our lives, the least we can do is know what role it’s playing and how we feel about it. It’s from this position of greater awareness and understanding that we can make changes in our lives, build new tools, and ultimately make the world a better place.