herald

Friday 28 April 2017

Online addiction is a growing threat to marriage, says bishop

Happy couple Carol Dignam and Tim Boylan at the Shrine of St Valentine
Happy couple Carol Dignam and Tim Boylan at the Shrine of St Valentine

Social media and technology addiction is wreaking havoc on the marriages of more than a third of couples who sought help through Catholic counselling service Accord last year.

Nearly a quarter of the 5,523 couples who attended marriage counselling sessions last year cited the overuse of mobile phones and texting as a problem in their relationships.

Nineteen per cent said internet use in general presented a problem in their intimate relationships.

Bishop of Kildare Denis Nulty, who is the president of Accord, said society's growing obsession with technology and devices is causing huge problems in the lives of couples.

"It is a huge issue. It continues to really surface in marriage as a serious problem because the couple is not sure exactly what the relationship is," he told the Herald.

"Years ago, the text, the tweet, the Snapchap app, Instagram, Whatsapp were not even considerations in counselling.

"Today they contribute hugely to the fractured narrative that unfolds in many counselling sessions.

"What was said in that tweet, the picture that was shared on social media, the reactive response on Snapchat can do enormous damage to a relationship, to trust and to the individual themselves."

It is not only couples who are allowing technology to take over their lives.

Entire families are no longer engaging with each other face to face in the real world, Dr Nulty added.

Engaged

"I saw four people at a meal recently. All four were on their smart phones," he said.

"By the time the main course was served, no one was talking to each other. We need to talk more."

The bishop made his comments as he blessed the engagement rings of a recently-engaged couple at the shrine to St Valentine in the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Whitefriar Street in Dublin.

In keeping with the spirit of St Valentine's day, the church handed out a series of free tokens of affection, including one that offers the bearer a "technology-free evening to do an activity of your choice".

For restaurant manager Tim Boylan (30), from Foxrock, who recently proposed to his fiancee Carol Dignam (31), from Kilcock, Co Kildare, at a Dublin restaurant, that particular token will not be needed.

Unlike many of their generation, the couple are not glued to their mobile devices 24/7.

"We never have any computers on in the house when we're at home" said Tim.

"We're not on Facebook or anything like that."

Carol added: "We're not real 'millennials' at all."

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