How Smartphones Could Be Ruining Your Relationship


Even with the most devoted couples, it seems that once-common conversations in bed have been replaced with endless scrolling through social media apps or funny image-based sites – individually.

Is the internet putting up a barrier between people, even in bed?

We compulsively carry our smartphones with us wherever we go. The classroom, the bathroom, the bedroom, the outdoors — our phone is always in hand as if it were some magic self-defense tool capable of protecting us from all that is evil in the world.

It all happened so fast. We didn’t have the time to set any boundaries for smartphone usage, and now we find ourselves unable to save our relationships and form meaningful interactions with those dear to us.

Smartphones are very useful in many circumstances. However, although not ruining your relationships per se, they can harm it in devious ways.

Lack of Mindfulness

A smartphone is a modern day distraction that is so common, it’s hardly noticed any more. It accompanies us wherever we go, demanding our attention multiple times a day. A phone call, a Facebook notification, oh look someone just pinned my cake pops recipe!

We become irrevocably immersed in our digital lives, prioritizing the virtual world over anything else. Is it really that important to Instagram your dinner, rather than actually savoring it and sharing your impressions – or maybe a forkful of the dish – with the person next to you?

Smartphones get in the way of our relationships, making it impossible for us to wholeheartedly devote our attention to the present moment. As a result, we lose many moments of wonder that are unique and never to be lived again.

Why pay a $50 to see your favorite band, if you’re going to watch the whole thing through your smartphone camera anyway?

Loss of Communication

Smartphones can be the culprit of communication breakdown among couples.

Intimacy is hard to achieve or maintain when your phone keeps beeping with alerts, notifications and email reminders. A constant, merciless distraction, our smartphones have come to replace deep-felt, long conversations in view of non-urgent, shallow tasks; retweeting a fun tweet, updating your Facebook status for the 136th time.

In fact, some people talk more about their relationships on Facebook than they do face-to-face with the person they’re actually in a relationship with!

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We’re becoming so obsessed over how our lives look to others through the digital glass that we forget how significant it is to live, invest and relish in the present moment and the reality we’re in.

Why choose to communicate through social media, rather than enjoy a friend’s company? Or better yet, do something together, other than sitting side by side staring at the displays on your individual devices?

Inevitably, excessive smartphone use drives us away from each other, and we only choose to communicate impersonally and for superficial matters. Somehow, bonding and intimacy no longer appeal to us, making it impossible for us to build any new, sincere relationships.

Destabilization of Relationships

To sustain a relationship it needs to be based on constant give and take, where we think about someone else at least as much as we think about ourselves. Smartphones upset this balance.

They can turn us into selfish, non-empathetic individuals who are only worried how many likes their Instagram photo received, or how many times their meme got re-pinned. We place too much emphasis on our digital lives, and we lose sight of the urgency and beauty of the everyday.

This leads to a vicious circle, where the more we interact with the digital world, the more we . . .

  • become indifferent to the real world and people;
  • get attached to the meaningless approval of strangers online;
  • seek validity and recognition from people we don’t know;
  • fail to see or interact with people we do know;
  • lose the connections to the real world and real people;
  • depend on the virtual world.

Prioritizing the Wrong Models of Communication

We’ve become convinced that our mobile alerts and notifications are urgent no matter what. We feel the urge to reply or check our email and social media accounts over and over again like our lives depended on it.

As a result, we’ve become overly attached to digital communication, regarding real life communication as secondary.

We exchange the depth and quality of face-to-face interactions with shallow and impersonal connections. We have fallen under the delusion that smartphones improve our experiences and relationships, when in reality, they’re slowly eating them alive.

We sabotage our happiness and wreak havoc with our relationships, failing to see which is more important in our life. Small, precious moments are slipping away because we’re focused on reading all of our emails, and we get unreasonably anxious if we put our phones away even for 30 minutes.

Perhaps we should ask ourselves whether being disconnected is, after all, really that hard. Do we really need our smartphones in the bathroom or in bed?

Stress and Smartphone Separation Anxiety

Unless you put boundaries to your phone usage, you will become addicted to it. You don’t even have to take a smartphone addiction test to see if you’re addicted to it.

Are you unwilling to take a test like that because you’re scared of the results? That’s enough of an indication in itself.

Apparently, somewhere along the way, we lost sight what real-life priorities look like. As you might expect, our mobile device obsession weakens our relationships, drives people away and disappoints and hurts others.

We have it all wrong. We shouldn’t feel stressed and anxious when we’re in phone-free zones, we should be relieved. Relieved that we can cherish special moments happening each day, relieved we can be mindful of the present moment which will never be repeated. Relieved that we’re unreachable, free to make good use of our time and our relationships.


Author: Jovell Alingod is a Project Manager for eReflect – a world leader in self-improvement software for vocabulary, spelling, typing, and speed reading with tens of thousands of happy customers in over 110 countries.

Comments

  1. Recently I traveled to Europe and was struck by all the phones. I saw couples sitting at tables each in their own world ignoring one other. I saw a family with the children and no one was directly relating to one another. Each of them tune into their own electronic device.

    I had resistance to getting a cell phone. My friends still complain that I seldom answer it. I like it better that way.

    Thanks for the article. I hope more people stop to think before they turn their phones on.

    With aloha, Susan

  2. You’re welcome Susan. I’m glad you liked it. Yes, it’s just sad that not everybody sees it that way. Hopefully in some ways this article helps.

  3. Davis Nguyen says:

    I agree Jovell. I bought my first smart phone this summer. At first I thought it would make my life easier with all the apps, calendars, and internet access. Instead I feel it caused me to be less tuned into those around me. Before I had a smartphone, I would talk with people when I waited in line, now I just go on my phone to check for mail or play games.

    I have to make a conscious effort to not do that, which I never had to do before I had a smartphone.

    • Hi Davis! The best part is you’re making that conscious effort than none at all. Or worse, if you’re not aware that it’s happening to you. I’m glad the post resonated with you. Thank you!

  4. Any new tool or shiny object commands our attention. But you’re so right, Jovell. Phones can become drug-like. They also run the risk of making our relationships a mile wide and an inch deep…plenty of them, but not much in the way of substance.

    Our family values our time together…but yes, it is a challenge to put the “electronic crack” down. What do you think of the idea of Phone Free Fridays, or something similar?

    • Good idea Larry! These types of challenges usually get a good response. Something like a “No Straw Day” in fast food restaurants or “No Plastic Bags every Wednesdays” in malls in some countries.

  5. That one guy says:

    Unfortunately, i don’t feel the same way as you guys.
    I see all these forums on the internet trying to persuade people to get off their phones and live.
    People are using smartphones as an everyday tool , however, they do that because the ordinary smartphone is quite helpful. Many people are using iPods or iPads as substitutes and it is evident that the generation is moving on. The internet access from phones is an example of the everyday smartphone use that we all use.
    I myself do not have a smartphone but a brick phone but i still feel like people are trying convince us too much to the limit where it actually seems like people are overshadowing us. I’m sorry if I offended you guys however, this is how i feel about smartphones.

    • Hi that one guy,

      No problem. We are all entitled to our opinions. Smartphones are really useful. We just really need to find the balance like in all things.

      • yes, smartphones are userfule, but when they are being used 24 7 it is detrimentle to a good relationship

  6. Niyas Ummer says:

    Thank you for this life changing article! I couldn’t agree better to what you have written. Being a smartphone ‘addict’ myself, I want to thank you for making me realize how much I have been missing in life. As I type this, my smartphone lay in my cupboard, waiting for me to return to it. Hopefully, I won’t.. 🙂

  7. Lonely Eater says:

    Couldn’t agree more. My fiancé can’t put his phone down. Ever. Can’t explain how embarrassing it is to sit in a restaurant and stare off in the distance while he plays (or whatever he’s doing – he always turns it away from me) on his phone. Not even sure why I accept the invites to eat out!

    • I know that feeling well – but it’s not so much at restaurants, more at home – before going to sleep, when waking up, even in those times when you should just be chatting about your day while making dinner and stuff – boyfriend is lit up in a magical LCD glow with his nose pressed to his S5. The thing is – you clearly love him and I clearly love my partner (otherwise we wouldn’t be with them) – but approaching this conversation is so difficult – I don’t want to come across like a whiny, attention seeking, needy person. But it’s difficult to see how I can’t come across that way – I am asking him to change his behaviour which is a big deal at the end of the day.

      • Asking for a change shouldn’t be a problem, but with the smartphone, it is. It’s as if it is their lifeline and asking them to put it down in order to indulge in some of their attention, is akin to asking them to cut off their hands.
        Taking the phone into the bathroom for example…a short few minutes that they couldn’t be without the phone. It’s very sad. If they’re hiding something, that makes sense, but to simply have the phone in their hand almost 24/7 when you should be having quality time together is distressing.
        Communicating about the phone addiction, making a consciuos effort to put the phone away when you’re together, even if you’re together in silence, would make such a huge difference.
        It’s painful to know that your spouse/SO is more content talking to others on FB, (mostly people they don’t even know and people that don’t care about them in the least) than to you. Smartphones make a relationship frail and too easy to make unilateral changes. Sad indeed.

    • Mu husband doesn’t let his phone get 2 inches away from him. If it is – then he locks it. He keeps it on vibrate. Come to find out – he is sexting. When your men are hoarding and possessing their phones as though they may have a heart attack without it and OMG – what if someone reads a text, there is probably something deceiving going on. Take it from me – a chump who trusted her husband whole heartedly -now I am divorcing the sob for cheating. Of course, he doesn’t see it as ‘cheating,’ because they never had intercourse, but IT IS CHEATING!

      • It is absolutely cheating. I’m under the impression that the same thing is going on. Getting defensive when it’s brought up that he can’t leave his phone alone is a huge sign, no matter how much he denies it. I’m sure I’d be devestated to see what’s really on that phone.

    • Nowaynono says:

      I know what your feel, I’m in the same both, but not for longtime anymore.

  8. My ex bf and I broke up but he stills wants to stay in touch and let me come to his families house.he wants to be just friends.now that he have a new phone he don’t let me check it like I always did with his previous phone.he goes in the bathroom with his phone and everywhere he goes he is just addicted to it. If I speak to him he just text ppl and don’t comment on my option and my commnuication.he did told me he have been hurt a lot during other relationships.women leave him.he is the only guy that did leave me.and I am the only girl that didn’t leave him. I did just walk away.I am single now I am happy.he is to addicted to his cell phone

  9. I couldn’t have said it better myself. People don’t realize how bad this obsession has become and how many relationships are suffering because of it.
    Thanks for the great article!

    • Been There says:

      I want to cry.

      I wish I had see all of these post when I was going through the destruction of my own life with the advent of ‘smarter phones’.

      Irony is that I am even spending time online reading this, but having lost so much and so many and even myself to this phenomenon, this IS what I am left with, for this eve anyway.

      You all have said it all so well.

      Tech certainly has it’s time and place but nothing,
      nothing replaces the warmth of seeing the moistness in someone’s eyes,
      the feeling of the gentle accidental brush against a friends arm,
      the sounds of rise, pitch and then soft trail-off of his giggle,
      being amused, again, (how could I forget) at the way she holds a spoon…

      …And when they are gone, really gone, is it their “posts” that we wish we had back?

      Is that really, what will cause us to cry?

  10. smartphones have put a very big gap between people and their loved ones.

  11. This article has inspired me…I’m deleting FB from my phone. I rarely use the computer, so I guess I’ll rarely use FB! I hate the mindlessness of social media, but it’s so addicting!!
    I hope this article helps people. I know my marriage suffers, slightly for now, because i
    of smartphones in general. 4 years ago it wasn’t even a problem!
    Anyway, thank you! 😊

  12. great article, i agree with everything said. Phones are taking over and theres nothing that can stop us from being brainwashed. this explanation might seem drastic but take a second to think about it. What would happen if all phones were shut off by the government. or some type of EMT disabled all devices. our tablets, phones, computers, all dead. unable to work. What would we do then? we rely on these things so much that if this happened, the entire population would go crazy. how would we contact people. what? a letter? how do i write a letter? what side does the stamp go on?…these questions would be asked by many people. if we don’t fix this problem now, our future generations will be burdened even more so than we think. and its all our fault.

  13. I e-mailed this to my ex-gf (good idea or not), we had the same issue. I was always asking her to please put her cell phone away so we could chat without being distracted. I’m scared for society! Everybody and their mother is looking down at their phones. Lets revert back to just payphones. that will teach people!

    • Nowaynono says:

      This is happening to me sir, when she goes to the bathroom everywhere she goes won’t put away her phone more than 5 minutes except when sleeping. Some body mostly got heart attack when I told her I had no cell phone.

  14. Amazing article! You really spoke the truth. I find it so hard to have fun with friends, because every time we’re out, I’m the only one that wants to just dive in and eat my food without taking 10 pictures first, and then applying some cheap filter on it so that I can post the pictures on Instagram. It becomes frustrating when you want to spend time with friends, but all they want to do is show off what they’re doing on Facebook. I hope someday they realize how much time they’re wasting on these useless social media websites.

  15. I have just realized my addiction of my smartphone. our situation with my boyfriend is even worse, we can get into bed around 10 and give each other backs and concentrate on our phones until we sleep and that can be after an hour or more.

  16. I agree so much. I have completely ended friendships because that person is always on their smartphone on so many apps. Once time this person just scrolled through pics of someone they didn’t like making fun of their pics and was showing me.

    Ugh, just reminded me of all the times I go out to a bar, dinner or just hang out and someone is so caught up in their phone. I even have to remind myself to put it away – staked on the table or just turn it off. Great read!

  17. why is it ruining us and our relationship. because WE are allowing it to. Grow some balls, and turn it off! OR can you! If you cant…why cant you! Your an addict to a piece of plastic. Good Job, Steve Jobs & Apple!

  18. ash pollard says:

    They have caused me to be jelous of her even if theres nothing to be jelous of you think men are messaging her on facebook while your at work you think the saucy piks she puts up , are not for you(i dnt hav fb-she wont allow me to) your in a world of insecurity

  19. Nowaynono says:

    When you wake-up in the morning and your new girlfriend, first thing she does is grabbing her cell phone to scroll down on Facebook and not even looking at you in your eyes or saying good morning, it feel very disappointed. Or even at lunch time, not even 5 minutes without touching this gadget, this is really ruining relationship big time.

    • He gets up an hour before work to sit on FB and browse his 1000+ fake friends, like their pics, comment, send <3's or IM them. Who knows. It's his "morning ritual" and if I wake up too early to sit near him or ask for some attention, I"m the one that is irritating him.
      Smartphones, porn, FB, sex sites, there's simply too many options for them to find a replacement for you. Then they wonder why you are insecure and ask them to please put the phone down so that we can feel a connection to eachother rather than a device. I wish FB and smartphones were obliterated.

      • Cemeterygirl says:

        I know exactly how you feel. I used to ask my husband to have date nights with me, but I quit. He’s on his phone the whole time anyway. He barely pays attention to me at home, between the Xbox and his phone. I feel like I’m in a relationship with myself. He gets angry when I try to talk to him about it, but I bet if I rejected him for technology he’d have a replacement for me right away.

  20. I hope my husband would realize about this before its too late. I don’t want to sound like tape recorder every time that I am arguing on this smartphone usage. First thing in the morning, he wants to check all his messages, notifications, while eating, resting in bed, after lovemaking, and even before closing his eyes to sleep. I am not sure for how long I can tolerate this.

    • I know how you feel. We never argue, never have a dull moment when we are out in nature or being active without our phones. The only thing that gets me heated up is his internet use and I”ve said it soooooo many times. Then I’ve said so many times that the only reason we argue is because of the internet and this has been said soooooo many times. Yet, there it is, locked in his hand, in the bathroom, first thing every morning, during the day when we are on the couch, before bed….or when he sneaks off to bed without telling me and is in the dark with his phone lighting up his face and I can see the blue FB background color all over his red guilty face. It’s the only thing…but it’s almost worth ending it. Then again, who says it won’t be the same with the next guy? Will it ever be a mutual desire to want personal time with two individuals instead of the entire world wide web.

  21. I’m reading this becsuse It’s been happening in my own “married” life. Instead of my husband spending time with me, he has taken more and more time on his phone than anything. If I talk to him about it, we just end up in a never-ending arguement. I feel unwanted and alone. Sometimes I feel like giving up.

  22. I completely understand what you’re saying because I’m in the same boat. I’m sure I’m on my phone more than I should be, but I’ve been working on it. I wish the hubby would try too. We’ve had plenty of conversations about it and it doesn’t seem to matter. I’m sorry but when you can’t be intimate with your spouse without messing with your phone there’s a problem :(.

  23. I know what u mean, my fiancé is constantly on facebook and that stupid ass game they have put out candy crush, I would love to shoot those bastards in the head…jk….it is all addictive..get a life, cell phone has ruined my love life…screw a cell phone unless necessary

  24. Nowaynono says:

    I will do the same…