Technology and Humanity//

Ashton Kutcher Says He Misses “Real Connections with Real People”

How much does technology actually do to make us feel more connected to our community?

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 13: Actor Ashton Kutcher takes a selfie prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 13: Actor Ashton Kutcher takes a selfie prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

When is the last time you used your phone to actually talk to your friends and loved ones, rather than just scrolling through Instagram? If it was recent, then you’re likely in the minority, as almost half of the time that we spend on our phones is spent on social media. But social media can magnify our feelings of isolation, as a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found. Actor Ashton Kutcher recently announced that he misses the chance to talk to people the old-fashioned way. He took the opportunity — on social media, ironically — to ask those in his community to reach out to him personally because he’s craving a “real connection with real people.”

Kutcher actually shared his phone number to facilitate that, in a since-deleted tweet. “I miss having a real connection w/ real people. My Community,” he wrote on Twitter. “From now on you can just text me. I won’t be able to respond to everyone but at least we can be real w/ each other & I can share the unedited latest & greatest in my world.”

After confirming, “Yes this is my#,” Kutcher was apparently so inundated with messages that he retracted on sharing his digits. “I will repost soon,” he explained in another, still-standing tweet, “sms is a fragile beast.”

This isn’t the first time that Kutcher has discussed having to navigate issues around his relationship with technology. In a conversation with Thrive Global founder and CEO Arianna Huffington last year, Kutcher talked about how he sets limits around his phone and internet use. “This is my journey that I’m on, and I want to choose when I’m available,” he told Huffington. “The ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature is actually really, really wonderful.”

Outside of that feature, Kutcher also chooses not to use his phone during dinner or to bring it into the bedroom. Plus, he avoids checking email during the beginning of his work day. “When I wake up… I spend the first hour of my work not looking at email, and actually just writing out what it is that I want to accomplish in a given day,” Kutcher said. “And then before I go through my emails, I’ll do all my outgoing, outbound stuff, which is what I want everyone else to do for me. And then I’ll go and get reactive to whatever’s going on.”

Research supports Kutcher’s idea that our relationships with our devices also have meaningful effects on how we communicate. According to Sarah E. Domoff, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Central Michigan University, “Mobile devices have dramatically changed how we communicate with others.”

“However, sometimes the presence of mobile devices can interfere with communicating when we are spending time with others face-to-face because our devices can be distracting,” Domoff tells Thrive. “However, if individuals are intentional about their use, we can harness the benefits of technologically mediated communication.”

Kutcher’s approach to his smartphone — with limitations, engaging with people off of social media, and utilizing the ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature — is a smart strategy. “Friends and significant others may have different views on communicating electronically, so it’s important to communicate about expectations/preferences for communication,” Domoff explains. “When spending time with friends or significant others, it is important to be present. If individuals feel pulled to use or check their smartphones, I’d recommend turning off notifications, putting your phone on do not disturb, or placing your phone out of sight.”

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