A reader’s question:
How can couples break the habit and spend more quality time together instead of talking to others on their smart phones all the time?
This is a great question! Lack of presence in human interactions is an epidemic of our time and one of the greatest relationship challenges. In order to fully grasp the solution, it’s crucial to understand:
1. Why is this happening?
2. How does it DESTROY your relationships?
3. How to break free from this addiction?
Why is this happening?
If you look around in public places, most people will be glued to some sort of a screen: watching, typing, or talking on the phone. Even couples on dates allow for such behavior.
New gadgets are addictive because they are a gateway to Internet, social networks and games that quickly satisfy all 6 human needs.
According to Human Needs Psychology, there 6 basic needs that each one of us seeks to satisfy on a subconscious level:
CERTAINTY: We need to feel safe, stable, and comfortable. Our basic survival instincts are inspired by the drive for certainty. The need for food and shelter falls into this category.
VARIETY: We need physical and mental stimulation. We strive for adventure, surprises, and an assortment of tastes, places and experiences. Our desires for travel, entertainment, trying new things, and meeting new people are inspired by this need.
SIGNIFICANCE: We need to feel special and worthy of attention. Acknowledgement by others, respect, and recognition are some of the ways in which this need gets satisfied. That is why awards and competitions are popular.
LOVE & CONNECTION: We need to feel loved and connected to others. The desire for intimacy, bonding, passion, and affection is rooted in this vital need.
GROWTH: We need to develop and expand. The drive for learning and making progress is propelled by this need.
CONTRIBUTION: We need to contribute beyond ourselves. Philanthropy, volunteering, and leadership are inspired by the need for contribution.
Gadgets provide easy access to satisfying your needs. They help you feel connected to the world at large, they feed you information assuring perceived growth, they provide variety, allow you to contribute and to receive acknowledgements from others. And the best part – you participate on your terms: whenever you like, wherever you like, as much as you want.
Take Facebook for example:
You know what to expect when you get online – it is predictable. You browse from the comfort of your chosen environment while being dressed (or not) however you like, this provides comfort and safety.
You receive information feed that contains news, ideas, and entertainment (growth and variety).You connect with your friends (love and connection), get in contact with new people (variety & connection), supply your advice and feedback (contribution) and receive some “likes” from others (significance & connection).
The best part is that if you don’t receive the “likes” or comments you anticipated, you can easily erase or edit your post. If someone disapproves of you, you can “unfriend” them. All communication challenges are solved with a few clicks – again – safety and comfort, AKA certainty.
Another example is googling something in the middle of a conversation:
You’re pretty sure that you’ll find the answer, which supplies certainty. Once you find the info you are looking up, you are instantly the most knowledgeable person – significance, you’ve learned something new – growth & variety. And this loops back to re-connecting you with your conversational partners and contributing what you just learned to them. There you go – all basic needs are pleasantly tickled.
Isn’t it amazing? It is no wonder that these behaviors are highly addictive – they yield the highest returns on your little investment of effort and time in terms of satisfying your 6 basic human needs.
How does gadget addiction destroy your relationships?
Well, when you consume junk food, your hunger gets satisfied quickly and inexpensively, while your health gets ruined.
Gadget addiction supplies a similar quick fix of substandard quality, offering temporary gratification at the price of your happiness and fulfillment.
Think of creating anything valuable in life: building a successful career or business, crafting a piece of art, raising children, getting your body in a state of health and vitality, and, of course, creating blissful relationships – all of these require an in-depth approach.
Nothing tangible or substantial can be created in two clicks. The amount of time, attention, and effort it will take is incomparable with the “quick fixes” gadgets promise.
The satisfaction that you experience through superficial media is also shallow and short-lived. At first, you brain gets trained to crave more and more stimuli. However, even if you consistently supply it, you remain deeply unfulfilled on the soul-level. This is similar to eating junk food all the time – you won’t be hungry, but your body will still ache for vitamins and essential nutrients and will signal you through pain.
In the relationship realm a surface approach will result in feeling emptiness and lack of real joy. You won’t be able to connect to another on a deep intimate level, because that requires vulnerability and presence.
Gadget satisfactions numb your ability to feel deeply. They train you to avoid pain as well as to avoid unfathomable pleasure. Sexual ecstasy requires a degree of openness which is cultivated over time, and is incomparable with a simple discharge of sexual tension – what most people tend to experience.
Real intimacy calls for feeling your partner which takes dedicated focus. Gadgets train impatience and attention deficit. As a result, relationships become superficial and tragically unfulfilling.
In time the chronic feeling of inner void leads to anxiety and depression accompanied by a multitude of health-related challenges – products of chronic stress.
How to break free from this addiction?
Breaking free from any addiction requires a resolute intent. A powerful decision for change can only be driven by a strong purpose. In other words, the reason for breaking the addiction – your “why” – has to be more compelling than the addiction itself.
If you were addicted to smoking and wanted to quit, a mere desire might not be enough for you to actually do it. If you are diagnosed with lung cancer, the stakes are much higher. When your addiction is costing you your life, you are more likely to claim your power over it.
Using a smartphone at the cost of the quality of your relationships doesn’t seem like a life-threatening pattern. If you are Ok with a mediocre existence, nothing will move you to action to break free from this habit.
If your relationships have been crumbling like gingerbread cookies one after another, this pattern might be a wakeup call for you to step up and to consciously create the quality communication and relationships you desire.
If you are a high-achiever and despise mediocrity, full acknowledgement of the consequences may be enough for you to alter your behavior.
If you choose to converse with someone, these people must be worthy of your full presence and attention, and if they are not, refrain from shallow communication altogether.
Once your decision to trade quantity for quality is firm, simply follow through on daily basis. Make sure to inform others that you want their full presence with you as well, and refuse to settle for substandard interactions.
Obviously, there will be some exceptions when the use of a smartphone is appropriate. At the same time, your inner dedication and resolve to communicate with every person as if they are the most important person in your life, will transform the quality of your relationships.
When it comes to your beloved, offer your presence and explicitly relay the importance of their presence with you. If your lover cares about you, they’ll listen and do their best, if not, you might as well be better off with someone else, because this lack of dedication and focus will ruin your relationship sooner or later.
What’s your take on using smartphones during communication? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.