Phones are like opinions, everyone has one, and for most people, it would be nearly impossible to function without them. Polls have shown that one in three Americans would rather live without sex than without their smartphones and that 84% of the global population could not go a single day without them. To be fair, try to find a lover that won’t argue with you, gives you an accurate weather forecast, lets you play games and music whenever you want, and lets you communicate with anyone at any time and place in the world. It’s no wonder we’ve developed pretty intimate relationships with handheld technology, but between dating apps, ghosting, jealousy and snooping, when it comes to romantic relationships, are phones our friends or foes?
There is a misconception that people use dating apps, like Tinder, sign up for short-term hookups, but 38% of men and 44% of women who use the apps are looking for long-term connections. There are success stories all over the internet and meeting people online is becoming much more normalized and less embarrassing to admit. There are an estimated 50 million users on Tinder alone. Business Insider interviewed two relationship experts to get their opinions on the dangers of dating apps and whether they’re hurting or helping romantic relationships. Claudia Duran, a matchmaker believes that apps have lead people to believe that finding a love match is too easy and has created the unrealistic expectation that there is an excess of people who are compatible for you. In her opinion, the apps are more ego feeders rather than romantic aids. Jess Carbino who works at Bumble as the head sociologist believes that as long as you’re going on dates and spending time in person, versus spending hours and hours on the app, they can be very helpful. It seems that there’s a solid chance you’ll find someone on a dating app, there is just no guarantee they’ll be a soulmate. Like most apps: everything in moderation and a healthy amount of time spent on the app in relation to time spent with actual people may make your experience productive and fun.
Phones can facilitate communication with our love interests, but waiting for that call or text back can also be excruciating. If you’ve spent time in-person it becomes quickly apparent whether s/he’s “bad with his/her phone” or just doesn’t want to answer you. Seemingly, ghosting is in the same vein with the incredible gift of instant communication. With the ease of interpersonal access, we’ve been given just as easy of a way out. All you have to do is hang up a phone or leave a text unanswered to get your message across. It’s nice to fantasize about the days when your crush may not be home to answer the landline or didn’t have access to a computer to answer your email, or maybe the carrier pigeon got caught in a gust of wind and died on its way to you. Phones have definitely limited the excuses made for people taking their sweet time to respond. This leads to an immense amount of assumption making, because maybe he was actually in the shower and maybe, just maybe, she actually lost her phone and couldn’t answer your call. The endless questions can lead to abrupt unexplained endings, which is interesting considering the accessibility and ease phones lend to communication. One woman decided to get to the root of why people are quick to stop responding, otherwise known as “ghosting,” rather than having that difficult conversation. Gili Freedman, a postdoc at Dartmouth college issued a survey involving questions about destiny and ghosting. The results were that those who believed in destiny were quicker to forgive someone who ghosted them and more likely to do it themselves. The reason for this was that believers in soulmates and destined lovers are more ruthless and decisive in their methods in an effort to find “the one.” Although ghosting is not a new phenomenon, smartphones have assisted in making the message painfully clear, cutting out excuses that older forms of communication allowed. Breakups are easier to execute, but perhaps a bit harder to swallow.
One of the most unpleasant and toxic feelings in a romantic relationship is jealousy. Jealousy is traced as far back in human history as the bible and is a natural emotion that everyone has felt at some point or another. For the first time, however, people are feeling envious of the relationship between their partners and their phones. According to Time, smartphones are affecting romantic relationships negatively, i.e. dulling intimacy. More interestingly many felt competitive with their partner’s devices. The excessive use of smartphones in relationships has actually lead partners to feel rejected and depressed. Rather than being jealous of other people, we’ve become jealous of a device.
According to an Insider survey, 37% of Millennial’s check their significant other’s phone regularly. This figure is far higher than any other generation and has lead to new issues. If you dig deep enough you will probably find something: a text to an ex, a suspicious Instagram like, a phone call from a number that isn’t saved, maybe your partner shared an intimate detail about your relationship in a group chat, or to that one friend you hate. Whatever it is, its got your blood boiling. And, unfortunately, you’re still in the wrong. You have invaded your partner’s privacy and, by snooping, you’re really making a statement: you do not trust your partner, to be honest. It becomes a lose-lose situation where you have found damning evidence, but the way you’ve gone about finding it is destructive in and of itself. The next time your partner is in the other room or in the shower, don’t reach for their phone, as tempting as it may be as it is a destructive use of technology.
Originally phones were invented to make communication easier not harder, and they still can. The first step to making your smartphone a positive part of your romantic life is becoming aware of the areas where it’s destructive. If you find yourself on your phone in a moment that should be intimate, i.e. in bed, at dinner, in the middle of a conversation, then put it down. Attempt to have the hard conversation rather than letting your phone do the work for you and ghosting. Take advantage of the fact that this small device can connect you with the people you care for, no matter where they are, and be mindful not to abuse that. Use your phone for what it’s good for, the weather, the time, a game now and then, music, sending a text or making a phone call to someone you miss or want to talk to, but make sure that it’s not interrupting human interaction.
Written by Delfina Forstmann