by Trung Hieu
The internet helps people from very far-flung areas stay in touch with each other, but it also drives people who live in close proximity apart.
Many couples rue relationships lost to modern technology that drives their obsession for social media and a world enclosed by their smartphones or tablets.
Phuong Mai, an office worker, saysýthat after her smartphone broke down, she found she was able to go to sleep at a reasonable time and get a good night's rest.
"How are smartphones and sleep related to each other?" I ask.
She laughs: "It broke down so I can't access social networks. No Facebook and no chat, so I can go to bed early and sleep all night."
She is not the only one obsessed by these gadgets, her husband and children are addicted to them too.
Mai says that each day, she and her husband go to work while their children attend school. When they get home, they have dinner together before disappearing into their rooms to immerse themselves in cyberworld.
Mai logs onto Facebook using her smartphone and her husband checks out the latest gadgets and news on his iPad, while their two children remain glued to the TV before bedtime.
"If their teachers ever ask our kids to describe family life, I don't know what they would say," she says with a broad smile.
Mai and her husband are not alone. Many couples have long since lost the art of interaction and prefer to spend their time on smartphones and tablets.
This lack of communication distances members of the same family, despite the fact they may live in the same house and share meals together.
One of them said: "I had a motorbike crash last month and everyone knew about it because I updated my Facebook status, but my husband was unaware. I felt sad so I didn't want to tell him. Our relationship is becoming colder and more distant these days."
Danh Tien, a high school teacher in Thanh Xuan District, also laments that the virtual network and new gadgets "fully occupy" his wife.
His wife, Minh Hoan, is addicted to social networks, and is constantly updating her Facebook status.
He says sadly: "I don't have a problem with social networks; I have a Facebook account myself, but you shouldn't live your life on the internet."
Hoan also gets jealous. If another woman visits Tien's Facebook page and leaves him a message, the repercussions can be seen straight away on her page, insinuating infidelity and reproach.
She also likes to "stain" her husband by posting photos of him stripped to the waist while mopping the floor, or when he was drunk.
Many of the photos she feels happy to share online are not particularly flattering.
"At first I ignored it, but then I couldn't endure anymore so I had to ask my wife to delete them. I am not a famous actor so I don't need to have my life in the public eye. I felt annoyed because other people commented on the photos and it was embarrassing.
"But my wife seemed to ignore me, so I had to block her account," Tien says.
Recently, one of my friends wrote on her Facebook: "I can cook while I'm on Facebook. My husband looks after our baby while he chats with his overseas friends. Hi-tech couples are so happy!"
I'm unsure of the validity of this statement, because sometimes my friend's husband updates his status complaining about the quality of his wife's cooking, saying the food is burnt or the soup is too salty because she is too busy playing online.
Most recently, the couple had to take their two-year-old son to hospital because while the husband was busy chatting with his friends online, their son fell down the stairs and cut himself.
Others like my colleague Hoa Bui argue that on the other side, thanks to these hi-tech toys, modern couples can share their interests, especially when they don't have anything to talk about.
Ha Noi-based psychologist Le Thi Tuy says that spouses should have common interests.
"Catching up on the news and using social networks are a good thing because they help us to communicate with friends and relatives.
"But we should not become addicted to social networks and forget our families. Most people have an eight-hour working day, and may have additional jobs and classes on top of that, so there is little time for family. If you can, you should share interests and balance time with your family in order to maintain close relations and avoid alienating those closest to you." — VNS