The Phones We Love Too Much


We are in a close relationship with our smartphones. We share our phones every day. We check them, on average, 47 times a day — 82 times if you’re between 18 and 24 years old, according to recent data.

And we love them for good reason: They tell the weather, the time of day and the steps we’ve taken. They find us dates (and sex), entertain us with music and connect us to friends and family. They are there to answer our questions, as well as calm anxiety and loneliness.

Phone love can sometimes go too far. It can even interfere with human love. Old-fashioned face-toface intimacy with your spouse, lover, or significant other.

The conflict between phone-love and human affection is so common, it even has its own lexicon. Phubbing refers to the act of snubbing your partner by using your phone. It’s techference where you’re choosing any type technology over your partner. Lost Kings sang a popular tune that asked: “Why not you put this [expletive]phone down?”

James Roberts (author of “Too Much of a Good Thing, Are You Addicted To Your Smartphone?”) said that being present is key for a healthy relationship. When one partner constantly checks his or her phone it sends an implicit message that they find the phone (or what’s on it) more interesting than you.

A 2016 study in Psychology of Popular Media Culture showed that 70% of women thought smartphones were negatively affecting their primary relationship. The study revealed that over one-third said their partner replied to notifications during conversations. Only one in four women said their partner texted while they were talking. Low levels of technoference among their partners made women less satisfied with their relationships, and their overall lives.

It’s not only women who feel dissed. Dr. Roberts is a Baylor University Professor of Marketing. He surveyed 175 men to find out about their partners’ smartphone usage. Nearly half of respondents, 46 percent, reported being phone snubbed (phubbed) by their partner. People who reported higher levels phubbing also reported higher levels in relationship conflict.

In our quest for technology-connectedness, we tune out our partners and disrupt a kind biological broadband connection.

Sherry Turkeyle, an M.I.T. said, “People are beginning realize that something is amiss.” technology professor and author of “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.” “They don’t necessarily know what to do about it, but they are open to change.”

Judith Bell, a leader coach and co-founder Relationships that Work in Novato (Calif.), has noticed that clients are beginning to respect their phone boundaries. “Now they turn off their phones when they are in session. They used to let themselves be interrupted back a few years before.

If you’re feeling frustrated by phone interference in your relationship, talk to your partner but be positive. Bell suggested that Ms. Bell emphasize the benefits to being more connected. Instead of telling your partner what to do or not to do, you can try something like this: “I love talking to you, but it’s hard for me to have great conversations when you’re constantly checking your phones.”

Dr. Roberts explained that awareness is the first step.

These are some suggestions for how to end your relationship with your phone so you can reconnect with your partner.

Designate “no cell” zones in your home. With your partner, decide which areas of your home, such as the living room and the kitchen, should be technology-free. Consider removing your cell phone from your car and allowing you to speak with your partner.

Try a phone-free bedroom for one week. Yes, it’s fun to check Twitter just before bed, or when you’re sleepless at 2 a.m., but you might be more likely to converse with your partner if the phone were elsewhere. Your partner will notice that you value your relationship more than your phone.

Dr. Turkle suggested, “Buy some old-fashioned alarmclocks for your bedroom table.” Put your phones in a basket in your kitchen.

Avoid using your phone while eating. According to a study published in Environment & Behavior, the mere presence or possibility of a phone chirping or buzzing can stop conversation. Researchers studied how cell phones influenced conversations between two people. Researchers found that when a cell phone was used during a conversation, both partners felt less fulfilled and had less empathy for the other person.

Practice proper phone manners. If your attention must be directed to your phone, say so. “I am just checking the score/weather/playlist for two minutes,” shows courtesy and indicates to your partner that you are aware that your attention is shifting. It may also make you more aware of how often you pick up your phone when your partner is present.

If your partner has a job that requires you to be available 24 hours a day, talk about setting reasonable boundaries so that both of you can do the job.

“The challenge is that people do not talk about these problems enough,” Daniel Ellenberg of Relationships That Works, a psychotherapist with Ms. Bell, stated. “We need to open up the social intercourse.”

Consider asking an objective source if your partner doesn’t want to drop their old phone habits. Instead of trying to wag your finger, it might be a good idea to have a closer inspection of your phone habits.

Dr. Turkle stated that couples need to form an alliance and agree on the new rules.

Dr. David Greenfield, University of Connecticut professor of psychiatry, created the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. This simple quiz, called the smartphone Compulsion Test,, was designed to determine if someone’s phone use has become problematic. Let the score speak for itself, not you.

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