My husband and I met on social media. It was NOT our intention, but texting and sending pics was a core element of our relationship when we first started dating.
But now that we're married and live together, phones seem to get in the way of romance. We limit them because we don't want to be plastered to a screen all day. That's way less pleasurable than each other's company.
Unfortunately, nomophobia, the fear of being without a phone device, is on the rise. Nearly everyone has a cell phone, and people are receiving 427% more notifications and 279% more texts than they did a decade ago.
Phones and their applications are designed to be addictive. Popular social media sites are constantly strategizing ways to keep users engaged. Because of this, relationships often suffer, especially when it comes to romance.
Phone Addiction and Fantasy
It’s easier to connect with others than ever. At least on a basic level. Anyone can go online and talk to someone else.
On this side of the tech wall, everything seems safer and more intriguing. You can message that cute guy and imagine having the perfect romantic night together. It’s easy to talk to someone when you’re not afraid of them judging how you look, what you wear, or whether or not you drive a clown car.
Cell phone notifications also set off a dopamine trigger in the brain. Dopamine makes us feel good. It’s what gets released after working out, eating something yummy, or having great sex. It also gets released when we receive cell phone notifications and have positive online interactions.
Cell phone notifications and positive online interactions trigger a dopamine release in the brain.
It’s the reason we gush over that “Good morning” text or get all stupid over a guy who messages, “Hey beautiful.” We can imagine him holding our hand, running his fingers through our hair, or kissing our neck just the way we like it. It feels good to check our phone and know that someone out there wants us.
But what happens when the person you love is in bed with you? Anyone can say anything online, but physical chemistry is necessary for a successful relationship. At the same time, if you’re checking your phone first thing in the morning instead of kissing your husband, you’re substituting reality with fantasy and that leads to dangerous territory.
I think it was Pauly Shore who said, “Social media makes cheating too easy.” He may be a comedian, but he’s right. Whether you’re reaching for your phone instead of the one you love, or actually getting physical with someone else, the effects are the same. Men may physically cheat more often, but women do so emotionally, and both routes cause disconnect, heartache, and other serious issues.
Reality and the Value of In-Person Experiences
The main issue is that phones disconnect us from reality. When I first met my husband – online – we were discussing a book collaboration. I write and he’s an amazing artist. The more we talked about our ideas the more we realized how much we meshed. Both of us were lacking support in the real world, so we leaned on each other.
It worked out for us because we took a leap of faith, met in person, and have been inseparable ever since. And that’s a story that’s becoming more common in the digital age, but remembering the value of those in-person experiences is what keeps our marriage thriving.
It’s easy to get in the habit of reaching for your phone. But when that becomes a reflex, pretty soon you’re staring at a screen on dinner dates, checking it when you go out to a movie, and missing out on holding hands while ice skating or taking a walk through the park because your phone has become an obsession.
Couples who can’t look into each other’s eyes, give each other their undivided attention, or go out together without constantly checking their notifications are doomed. Eventually, everyone gets tired of dating the back of a phone case.
Eventually, everyone gets tired of dating the back of a phone case.
How romantic. A piece of plastic and metal now holds the power to disrupt a steamy night…
The technical term for this is “phubbing.” When we ignore someone we’re with to play on a phone it gives the people around us the impression that our phone means more to us than they do.
Whether fantasizing about someone/something else, emotionally investing ourselves in celebrity gossip, or marrying the ever-changing news cycle, nomophobia isn’t worth missing out on real love. A phone’s battery may run out, but when someone truly loves you, they will be there for you no matter what. A phone can’t hug you when your mom gets cancer. It can’t hold your hand on the way to the hospital or wipe tears from your face.
Life is full of tragedy and triumph. The people we share those moments with gift us with more love and courage than anyone online.
Balancing Your Online "Social Life" with Real Relationships
It takes a conscious effort to focus on the people and reality you live in every day, but it also builds stronger connections that last longer and offer the support needed to handle everything in life. My husband and I still send each other pictures. We still send messages and texts when we’re apart. Sometimes I’ll send him an “I love you” from the bathroom just to be silly. (Always make sure to wash your hands when attempting toilet romance.)
Seriously though, instead of charging phones in the bedroom at night, it helps to leave them in the living room or the kitchen. This puts them out of reach and helps you to think before you act.
Taking a day off from the internet every once in a while is another way to break phone addiction.
Making sure to greet your better half (and kids, if you have a big family like me) before anyone else every morning helps you subconsciously put them first. Once the sleep is wiped from everyone’s eyes they’re better able to connect anyway.
In addition, phones should be used sparingly on dates. Sure, if you have kids, check on them. Taking a selfie together is also one of my favorite things to do with my husband on date night. He is way more photogenic than I am.
Setting limits and boundaries puts phones back where they belong: in the “tools” category of life instead of “necessity.” Taking a day off from the internet every once in a while is another way to break phone addiction or gauge how addicted you’ve become. Once-a-week is a good rule, but even once-a-month makes a difference. If you can’t just spend one day in your own head, seeing things through your own eyes, it may be time to make a change.
Phone addiction can ruin romance. It can lead to serious relationship issues, but it doesn’t have to. We can build better connections and still check our phone every once in a while, we just have to remember the importance of living in reality, valuing the people we actually know over our online friends, and make a conscious effort to balance our “presence” with our actual in-person presence.
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