Tag Archives: Technology

Do You Love Your Phone More Than Your Spouse?

Before you answer too quickly, check out the surprising research. Today is the day the highly anticipated iPhone 4S comes out, and I’m hankering for one as much as the next person. It’s a good time for all of us to read how our phones may be affecting our brains, feelings, and love lives.

The question isn’t, “Are you addicted to your phone?” (Which is what many have been asking in recent years.)  Instead, researchers say they have concluded that you “love” your phone in a similar way that you love your partner or your religion.

Branding consulting and researcher Martin Lindstrom explains in the New York Times, “A recent experiment that I carried out using neuroimaging technology suggests that drug-related terms like ‘addiction’ and ‘fix’ aren’t as scientifically accurate as a word we use to describe our most cherished personal relationships. That word is ‘love.’

“Come on,” you say, “I don’t love my phone that much.” But think back to the quiet meals with your spouse, or the times you sat in front of the fire, when you either pulled out your phone or wished you could. Lindstrom says those who leave their phones at home feel stressed-out, cut off and “somehow un-whole.” I know even when I go out to dinner with my husband, my phone comes with, and so does his.

Lindstrom carried out an experiment using functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine if iPhones were addictive (as in cocaine, shopping, or video games). Eighteen people (half men, half women) were exposed separately to audio and video of a ringing and vibrating iPhone. Whenever they were exposed to either the audio OR the visual, the participants’ brains activated BOTH the audio and the visual cortices.

“In other words, when they were exposed to the video, our subjects’ brains didn’t just see the vibrating iPhone, they “heard” it, too; and when they were exposed to the audio, they also “saw” it. This powerful cross-sensory phenomenon is known as synesthesia. But most striking of all was the flurry of activation in the insular cortex of the brain, which is associated with feelings of love and compassion. The subjects’ brains responded to the sound of their phones as they would respond to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend or family member. In short, the subjects didn’t demonstrate the classic brain-based signs of addiction. Instead, they loved their iPhones.”

So, we respond to our phones in a similar way that we respond to our spouses. (And, I’m guessing sometimes, the response to the spouse may be more negative.) Have you considered how this response may affect your marriage? I’m sure many of us can share how an “important” call or text disrupted our alone time or family time. Do you love your spouse enough to turn your phone off for a few hours a day? One hour a day? Half a day on the weekend? Half an hour before bedtime? Do you have any structure or limits on how and when you use technology?

Lindstrom suggests, “As we embrace new technology that does everything but kiss us on the mouth, we risk cutting ourselves off from human interaction. For many, the iPhone has become a best friend, partner, lifeline, companion and, yes, even a Valentine. The man or woman we love most may be seated across from us in a romantic Paris bistro, but his or her 8GB, 16GB or 32GB rival lies in wait inside our pockets and purses. My best advice? Shut off your iPhone, order some good Champagne and find love and compassion the old-fashioned way.”

If you answered that you love your spouse more than your phone, here’s your chance to prove it. Set limits that you both agree upon, then stick to them. (Try 30 to 60 minutes a day if the idea makes you sweaty with nervousness. No, sleep time doesn’t count.) If you find you cannot stick to the limits, then you’ve proven that your feelings for your phone are stronger than your feelings for your partner.  Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

How much do you love your phone? Why do you think that is?

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

True Connectivity

I’m a fan of Twitter and Facebook and find these and other sites help me connect with lots of different people for work and personal reasons I wouldn’t otherwise talk to. I think our use of these and other social networking tools helps fill a desire to be known by and connected to others. However, we should beware that filling our lives with technological tasks can, in some cases, actually reduce our true connectivity.

You’ve seen the friends who post details of their vacation every day and let you know when they stop for coffee. They air their grievances online. They carry their cell phone everywhere and never turn it off. They text in the middle of a dinner party. You probably know a lot more of these individuals than folks who take time out for silence.

Our frenetic pace doesn’t often allow for quiet time, for thinking, contemplation, prayer or meditation, for spending relaxing unstructured time with spouses and close family members. The wisest, calmest people you know probably allow themselves time of solitude. When we don’t take time for the bigger picture, we can begin to feel overwhelmed. We may even reach out to our social network to tell them how overwhelmed we feel or to complain about our busy schedule, which does little to solve the problem.

Many folks are finding they need to “unplug” from technology (including TV, ipods, cell phones and radio) for periods of time to help recharge their batteries, both for the more structured planning, praying or reading/learning type of activities, and for non-structured relaxed activities like taking a walk or bike ride or watching a sunset. I personally find that during these unstructured times, I often will find insight into a problem or a great idea that helps me with a project.

When you are lucky enough to be married, you have a partner for life, and someone you can truly know and be known by, an answer to our true desire to be connected. Once you allow yourself time of solitude to know yourself well, you can share yourself more effectively with your partner. Don’t allow gadgets or devices to get in the way of your personal sharing or to take away the valuable time you may need to reconnect.

This fall is the perfect time of year to appreciate the changing foliage together with your spouse while you share your feelings and discuss one another’s goals, challenges or concerns. Take time to listen and share. Don’t tweet about it, and don’t post a photo of the experience on your personal web page. Give yourself time to know your spouse and to be known. That’s true connectivity.

What gets in the way of your personal solitude or your true connectivity? Is there a way you can remove any obstacles?

We Need True Connections

As I jump into the blogging world, we have more ways to connect than ever before–email, texting,  and cell phone coverage all over the world. I’d like to hear from you about how technology helps or hurts your ability to create and maintain relationships.  

In online forums, you may have hundreds or even thousands of “friends.” But in all these contacts, I wonder how often we make true connections. What about your treasured friendships–does technology help you maintain them or does it get in the way, leaving little time for friends? Do you talk to your neighbors? Do you chat with a friend over coffee? Or are you more likely to send a short email or forward an amusing story? Does technology allow you to make great connections that you would otherwise have not made? My cousin recently married a man she was matched with on eharmony.  They were in the same profession in the same town and never had met–a great example of technology facilitating a true connection.

A recent study from American Sociological Review found that the number of people who say that have no one to confide in is increasing–from 10% in 1985 to 25% today. Are we losing our ability to truly connect with those around us, even when it’s vital to our wellbeing? Be on the lookout in your life for those who need to make a real connection today.