A cell phone is that innovative device that has replaced several other digital devices. It comes with innovative features that facilitate multitasking, making people totally dependent on it. Checking messages on social media, browsing through websites, or simply checking the phone screen may now seem as natural as breathing. But, is it taking a toll on our relationships? Let’s find out.
Dependency on this tiny device has slowly converted into an addiction to the extent that people cannot imagine even a single day without their cell phones. This urge to maintain a virtual life through the cell phone has been causing problems in real-life relationships.
‘Cell phones ruining relationships’ is not a myth but a harsh reality. But nothing is lost yet — there are ways to combat this addiction too.
Five Signs You Are A Phone Addict
Is your phone the last thing you check at night, and the first thing you open your eyes to in the morning? If yes, you are probably already fixated on your phone. Here are some clear signs to help you determine if you are addicted to your phone.
- You are frequently scrolling through your social media feed: No matter where you are or what you are doing, as long as your phone is in your hand, you scroll through social media. And when you don’t, you start feeling restless, as if you are missing out on something important.
- You often lose a lot of time doing nothing: Each time you are bored, you immediately reach out for your phone. You start by promising yourself to spend only a few minutes checking updates on Instagram or Twitter, but when you next check the time, you realize you have spent more than 40 minutes just scrolling through images or news feed.
- You are on your phone even in the company of others: You indulge in phubbing, also known as phone snubbing, which refers to the habit of being glued to your phone even when someone is talking to you. For instance, your family is at the dinner table and talking about how their day went. But you have no idea what they are talking about because you are busy checking out Kendell Jenner’s house tour.
- You suffer from phantom vibration syndrome: Often, you feel as if your phone is buzzing with a notification, but when you check it, there is nothing. This mostly happens when you are away from your phone for some time. This anxious behavior is known as phantom vibration syndrome (1). It compels you to want to stay connected with your phone all the time.
- You feel lost, lonely, and irritable without your phone: One day, you forget your phone at home, and at work, you constantly feel like you are missing something. You feel irritated about the fact that you cannot check your social media or favorite apps. According to a report published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, anxiety and loneliness when unable to send a message or receive an immediate response is one of the several problematic behaviors associated with phone addiction (2).
If you are exhibiting one or more of the above signs, it means you could be addicted to your phone. And this addiction to your smartphone could be affecting your personal relationships.
How Do Cell Phones Ruin Your Relationship?
According to a study by Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, smartphones can affect the relationship with your partner and heighten levels of depression (3). But why does this happen?
One cause is the phubbing phenomenon, that is, snubbing your partner and being engaged with your phone. For instance, your partner is talking to you about what happened at their workplace. You may or may not be listening to them, but your eyes are compulsively glued to your phone screen because you cannot help scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed. This makes your partner or prospective partner feel neglected.
As per a study conducted by Xingchao Wang, et al., partners who experience phubbing are vulnerable to depression and lack satisfaction in a relationship (4). It can lead your partner to feel that whatever they are saying does not seem important to you and that you are not genuinely interested in them.
Besides, your constant use of the phone can also make them suspicious of you. They might suspect that you are interested in someone else and use a chatting app to keep in touch with that person.
Phone addiction also ruins your sex life. Your partner could likely be craving physical intimacy, but the moment you get into bed, all you can think of is checking your updates on Snapchat. Or after sex, the first thing you do is check your phone. This makes your partner feel cheated and yearn for your time and attention.
The worst thing you can do is reach your phone when your partner is talking to you or is in between an argument with you. Doing this could be humiliating and even enraging for your partner.
All the above reasons can have a negative impact on your relationship to the extent that separation becomes an option for your partner.
Five Simple Tips To Resolve Conflicts Due To Phone Addiction
Maintaining a deep and meaningful relationship requires the efforts of two people and not just one. The fact that you prefer spending hours scrolling on your phone mindlessly could also mean that you are trying to escape your real-life responsibilities. The following are ways you and your partner can try to resolve conflicts arising due to your phone addiction.
- Talk it out: The first thing you can do in any conflict is talk it out with that person. If your partner complains about the lack of quality time you two spend together, hear them out. Try to understand how your annoying phone habit is hurting them and make efforts to change it.
- Set device-free time: Both you and your partner need to devote a specific time during the day when you will be without your digital devices. If not all, then at least your phone. You can spend time having some meaningful conversations, or read together, or play board games. Do anything that will get your mind off your phone and develop your relationship. The best time to do this is an hour or two before going to bed.
- Allow phone time: After a hard day at work, it is natural to feel the need to unwind with some games or social media. Allocating time when both you and your partner are free to be with your phones can make you feel less deprived. It can limit your screen time and help you control the urge to overuse your phone.
- Get close physically: The kind of stimulation you seek from your phone, when achieved through physical contact with your partner, might make you miss your phone a little less. Cuddle your partner, offer more hugs and kisses, or try new things in bed that will make your personal life more interesting.
- Make provision for exceptional cases: There will be times when you will not be able to disconnect from your phone. For such times, you and your partner can decide how to limit your screen time. Allow a certain number of such instances in a month.
Spending time on your phone watching videos, playing games, or even checking social media feed is not bad. It helps freshen your mind and keep you socially aware. The problem lies in overusing the phone to such an extent that your virtual life takes precedence over your real life. Learn to maintain a balance so you can enjoy your phone time without feeling guilty and without sacrificing your relationships.
2. José De-Sola Gutiérrez, Fernando Rodríguez de Fonseca, and Gabriel Rubio; Cell-Phone Addiction: A Review; Frontiers in Psychiatry (2016).
3. Baylor Study: Cellphones Can Damage Romantic Relationships, Lead to Depression; Baylor University
4. Xingchao Wang, et al.; Partner phubbing and depression among married Chinese adults: The roles of relationship satisfaction and relationship length; American Psychology Association (2017).