TECH 5 for Wed., Feb. 18, 2014
Smart phones and relationships
Are you spending more time with your smart phone than with your partner — even during romantic dates?
Technology allows us to be constantly connected to the world, but it can also make us even more disconnected from each other. Recent studies show that cell phones can have a negative impact on close relationships.
Researchers have found that people who engaged in personal discussions when a cell phone was nearby — even if neither was actually using it — reported lower relationship quality and less trust for their partner Research suggests that cell phones can distract our attention from the present moment.
How pervasive is smart phone use? A recent survey that found three out of five U.S. smart phone users don’t go more than hour without checking their devices. It concluded that taken a few steps further, smart phones, tablets, and laptops — and the social media they often support — have the potential to tear couples apart.
Social media provide a sense of instant gratification that stimulates our brain’s reward centers, offering quick hits of novelty that can be addictive.
It allows us to connect with friends, co-workers, and even former flames, encouraging an immediate and intense sense of intimacy that can lead us to romanticize these connections. At best, you’re giving your energy to these digital distractions, not your partner. At worst, you could be setting the stage for emotional infidelity.
Short of discarding your smart phone, especially if you also need it for work. There are things you can do that will even help improve your relationship. Here are three tips for making technology work for you and your partner:
Cell phones are best kept out of sight and out of mind when you’re on a date or spending quality time with a special person. Turn it off and place it in your hand bag or pocket while you are together. Nothing is so important that it can’t wait for an hour or two.
Consider shutting down phones, tablets and laptops at night, or at least charging them in a room other than your bedroom. Not only can they interfere with your ability to relax and unwind, but their distracting presence can also interfere with intimacy.
I wish I could say that this wasn’t a problem for me, but is almost a daily problem. For example:
“Hello?” My wife said to me, leaning over in front of me just yesterday. She was trying to get my attention but my head was buried in my I-pad…
“I just asked you a question,” she said. “Did you even hear me?”
I wish I had a good answer or excuse, but the truth is, I didn’t.
The use of distracting devices; cell phones, I-Pads; computers etc. has definitely had a negative impact on our relationship. One day she is exasperated with my need to instantly respond to an email, the next day she is incensed that I would interrupt her describing an incident from a book she is reading, by sneaking a peak at the flashing light on my phone.
I was at a wedding reception recently where the conversation was a bit awkward. Not everyone knew each other, and personalities may not have been matched very well. Within a half hour of the bride and groom arriving at the reception, it seemed like half the guests had turned their attention to their smart phones. The only “conversation” was when, every now and then, someone would giggle and explain that she had just received the cutest picture of her sister’s kittens.
Cell phones are in fact reducing the quality of our relationships—even when we aren’t using them. Just having a phone nearby serves as a damper on intimate conversation.
On the other hand, let’s be practical. If you’re like me, you’re part of the 66 percent of cell phone users who have a phobia of being without their phone. And for all the negative effects of our phones, I believe that there are some benefits too? Don’t they help us stay connected—a key in strengthening relationships?
It’s certainly a benefit—phones help us stay connected to people we already know. If we don’t live in the same state as our family members, or our friends, or if we travel a lot, phones help us stay in touch—and this can be meaningful. A good luck text as you’re about to go into a job interview, an unexpected phone call from your mom, or a photo text from a friend saying, “Wish you were here!” are all the human ways we build and maintain relationships despite physical boundaries.
If my phone makes me a better person, it should make me better at relationships—shouldn’t it?
The problem, if you ask me, isn’t in our smart phones. The problem is with us. Because for as many times as my phone makes me a better person, it also makes me a more distracted person, or even a more selfish person. It distracts me from living in the moment. It makes me feel insecure and insignificant. It makes me worry obsessively that everyone is smarter, or has a better life than I do.
So what’s the answer?
We should learn from our experiences. We should cultivate the good in our lives, resist the junk and grow in wisdom to understand the difference between the two. We do this with many things and phones should be no different. If we use them to our advantage, they can be helpful and powerful tools. If we let them use us, we’ll be controlled and miserable.
I don’t anticipated throwing my phone into the sea any-time soon, and chances are, neither do you. But it is important to pursue healthy relationships, without a cell phone, I-pad or computer standing in the way.
This is Ben Harrison from EEZEE Radio 91.1 AND 102.7 on your FM DIAL in St. Vincent and the Grenadines