Put The Phone Down and No One Gets Hurt
I read a statistic the other day on CNBC.com* that stated there is a definite link between social media use and a decrease in marital quality . While this isn't breaking news, it is bizarre that our phones have become almost a third entity in our relationships. The phone goes on the table at dinner, begging to be checked with every buzz. It accompanies us on vacation, always a text away from work. And it shares in all our important moments, documenting a glorious meal/concert/trip while we are busy staring at a tiny LCD-screen, missing it. Does anyone else see the problem with this? We spend more time talking about what we do to other people than actually doing things. It's like seeing a move blindfold or taking a picture of dinner but not eating.
The impact on relationships is concerning to me as a therapist because of the distraction and escape the phone provides. For example, I have had many clients report to me that they discovered that their spouses were cheating via a social media site/phone app. I believe this is due to two reasons:
1. With apps like "Tinder," there is literally a buffet of "single" people who want to have sex, 24 hours a day. It requires basically no effort at all. The courtship process is nearly eliminated.
2. People are easily distracted by the newest thing, including sexual partners and mates, in some cases. The hunt for "what else is out there" used to take place at bars and required hours of planning and moments to reconsider your actions. Now you can cheat while sitting on the toilet! No effort required, not even pants. It's easy to escape the annoying snore of your wife or messiness of your husband with one swipe, but that is not reality.
The distraction issue with the phone being glued to our hands is also scary. Men's Health* reported that the more time you use your phone daily, the increased odds you have of being depressed. For relationships, it's incredibly disconnecting. The time we spend unwinding with our mates is crucial for maintaining a strong bond. It's just as important as a regular 'date night' tokeep the fire burning. Picture this: you come home from a rough day at work and all you want to do is vent to your spouse and get a warm hug. Instead, you're met with head nods and minimal eye contact while they surf ESPN.com or scroll their Facebook feed. Not comforting at all, and more importantly, not respectful. What we are saying when we choose interaction with the outside world of our phones versus our partners, is that, "other people matter more than you."
Who wants to get that (non-text) message? Put the phone down, avert your eyes up, and be present in the moment if you want a healthier life and happier relationship.
*"Social networking linked to divorce, marital unhappiness" by Everett Rosenfeld, 7/14/16
*Men's Health, December, 2015