According to an article in the March/April, 2015 issue of Psychology Today, smartphones are interfering with relationships. When one person in the relationship is frequently checking email or text messages it is sending a signal that what he or she is doing on their cell phone is more important than interacting with the other person.
Being shunned, ignored or rejected is painful, and functional MRIs actually reveal that both physical pain and rebuff or rejection share the same pathways in the brain. One study from Brigham Young University found that of 143 women in relationships, the majority reported that cell phones, computers, and other devices were significantly interrupting their relationships and family lives. It is even believed that these seemingly minor hurts through inattention or rejection are cumulative. Over time, they can fester to the point of compromising physical and mental health.
A Wall Street Journal article titled BlackBerry Orphans discussed how these gadgets were intruding on families and how children were feeling neglected. Psychologists reported that electronic devices were becoming a topic of conversation in family therapy sessions. When I was young, wives used to complain about husbands reading the paper at the kitchen table during meal time. Now it seems that Smartphones have replaced the newspaper. And women seem to multitask as much as men.
A Canadian Health report (mentioned in the book, Sleep to be Sexy, Smart & Slim by Ellen Michaud with Julie Bain) claims that more than a half of all employees take work home, 69% check their email from home, 59% check voice mail after hours, 30% get work-related faxes, and 29% keep their cell phones on day and night. As a result, 46% feel that this work-related intrusion is a stressor and 44% report negative spillover onto their families. And the families are supposed to be the most effective buffer to workplace stress. Work is no longer a place, but a state of mind. And with smartphones and other PDAs, it’s easier to be a workaholic these days.
If both parties in the relationship are guilty of using their smart phones while together – such as in restaurants, at family gatherings or in the bedroom – communications will suffer, and communications is usually considered essential to a happy relationship.
Relationships is a major topic discussed in our holistic time management seminars as well, since it impacts time, health and well-being. Couples owe it to themselves to at least examine whether technology is creating interference in their personal relationships and take action if necessary.
Such actions could include setting some boundaries and guidelines that are acceptable to both parties. We all need time for technology – both for business and personal reasons – but it should not overlap with time being spent together. Perhaps there could be specific times when both partners work independently for an hour or so. There could be a policy of no cell phones during specific activities such as mealtimes, dates, and at bedtime. You could decide to turn off cell phones and laptops at a specific time in the evening or have technology-free hours during the day.
The important thing is to assess the impact, if any, that cell phones and other devices are having on your relationships, health and use of time, and take any necessary action. Any actions taken should be agreed upon by both parties, and not set arbitrarily.