How many times have you tried to have a conversation with someone and they won’t stop looking at their phone? The worst.
It’s even worse when you want to have a deep or difficult conversation with your partner or loved one and they’re over there scrolling. It can feel like they’re a million miles away, even if they’re sitting right next to you.
Over the next few weeks, I’m answering questions right from you, and this week, a woman wrote in distressed that her partner of almost 20 years might be addicted to his phone. More recently, she’s noticed a massive change in his behavior: every time she tries to have a talk with him, he’s looking at his phone, and even when she says something about it, he tells her, “No, what I’m doing is important” or “I’m still listening.”
Can you relate?
Maybe it’s not a partner, but a friend or even your kid that’s on permanent scroll-mode. Maybe it’s even you. No matter who it is, if you feel like technology is blocking your potential for real connection and intimacy with others, this one’s for you.
I might be dating myself when I say this, but when it comes to technology…times, they are a-changin’. I mean, when Vic and I first met, no one had a cell phone that wasn’t the size of a cinder block. Social media didn’t exist. If you told someone to “google” something back then…they would have looked at you like you were nuts.
Now we have access to literally the entire world right in the palm of our hand. And for the most part, that’s pretty amazing. But there are some real issues that can come up with having immediate, constant access to technology… especially when it comes to our relationships and connections with others.
We really have to deal with this because it’s happening and it’s real. It’s not just about being rude (even though it is). Technology addiction can be detrimental to the intimacy in our relationships, but also, scarily, to the health of our brains.
What’s actually going on in the brain when we’re constantly on a device?
- It hits the same part of the brain center that any other addiction hits. This might sound extreme, but heroin addicts get addicted to the euphoria that the drug produces. It mimics our natural feel-good hormone, dopamine.
- When you go on Instagram or Facebook and see those likes or hearts, there is scientific proof that you get a hit of dopamine.
- Fact: your brain will continue to seek that reward so that you can feel good.
- Especially for people with addictive personalities, we basically have that addiction in our pocket, or in our purse, whenever, wherever, always close by. Yikes.
How do you know if you have a problem? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Are you ever without your phone?
- Do you have any rules or boundaries or regulations around your own phone use?
- How about within your relationship? Within your family or house rules?
- Do you have your phone in your bedroom with you?
- Do you have your phone out when you’re out to dinner with friends?
- Do you regularly scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feed instead of being present with the people that you’re with?
- Has it become socially acceptable to be completely absent from a conversation in your own life?
The truth is, now, this is all so normalized. Younger generations who actually grew up with cell phones at an early age may not even think that this is not normal, but they may feel unsatisfied in their relationships. And I promise you, if you’re feeling unsatisfied in this way, it’s worth taking some time to think about how technology could be blocking real intimacy in your life.
So what happens psychologically when we turn to our phone or device? Well, if you are someone who dislikes a confrontation and you find it difficult to have a hard conversation, you may feel compelled to be on your phone to avoid your feelings.
Think about it like any other addiction. What are we doing? We are mood-altering. We don’t like the way we feel. We don’t want to be bored. We don’t want to be left with our own thoughts, our own feelings. So what do we do? We go onto Facebook, we or we hop on Instagram. And what does this do?
Instead of being in a problem-solving place with whatever’s actually happening in your real life, technology becomes a focused distraction to avoid feeling your feelings. But of course, like everything else, it just numbs the feelings temporarily.
Consciously, we know that scrolling IG for hours a day will not make whatever it is you need to handle or figure out go away. But it is so easy to fall into that iPhone pit as an avoidance tactic that you might not even be aware of. Raising your awareness is always the first step when it comes to making positive changes in your life.
There are plenty of scientific studies that talk about this concentrated distraction and what’s physically happening to our brains, our ability to retain information, and our ability to process data. And it’s worth knowing about.
When we’re “plugged in” to a device for extended periods of time:
- Our ability to comprehend things lessens
- Our ability to focus is compromised
- Our executive function overall may decline
- Some studies have shown that overdependence on technology can result in higher levels of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and impulsivity.
What you can do about it:
- Turn off notifications on your phone. If you don’t want to miss a call or text from your kids, your partner or your parents, you can set it so you’re getting notified for only those important connections, and not getting pinged every time someone likes something on Facebook.
- Put your phone far away from you physically, when you can. Set up a designated spot when you get home and strive for consistency.
- No phones or devices in your bedroom. It’s not good for your sleep hygiene and for so many other things that happen in there 😉 Get a real alarm clock (they are still a thing) and make that space sacred and tech-free.
- Create agreements in your home around technology. So whether that’s with yourself, your partner or your family members set some clear boundaries. For example, no phones at the dinner table or you can ask one another to put down the phone whenever you want. You can decide together on tech-free zones or times in your home.
- Practice making simple requests (without a big emotional charge) about technology socially. Here’s some language: “Hey, I’m really trying to detox a little bit from this whole tech thing. Would it be ok if when we’re together, we put our phones away?”
I want you to feel empowered to make choices that allow you to take a mental and emotional vacation from virtual life. I’m not saying it’s not real. It is. But…
Virtual life isn’t as real as your real life.
I hope you liked this episode and that it inspires you to change your relationship to technology… so that you can uplevel the quality of your life and your relationships. If you feel like this could really provide some value to someone else’s life, please share it by clicking right here.
I hope you have an amazing week in your real life. 😉
As always, take care of you.