Rachel and her lovely husband, whose phone number she doesn’t know.
I DON’T know my husband’s phone number.
We’ve been married for two years and together for four. We sleep in the same bed every night, we have joint bank accounts, we have a child together for goodness sake and I don’t know his phone number.
I’m embarrassed to admit that out loud but I don’t actually intend to do anything about it. I’m not going to waste precious memory space by storing away 10 digits that I don’t need to. I’ve got a smart phone for that.
As far as millenials go, I’m a pretty old one. I only make the generational cut by a couple of years. I didn’t grow up with touchscreens and I remember the prehistoric lives we all led before the invention of Google. But still, I’ve never had a romantic relationship where both parties weren’t in possession of a mobile phone.
We tend to think about smart phones as devices for communication. The truth is that they’re primarily an extension of our memories. My phone stores a ton of information. From my bank account details, to the maps, which help me to get where I’m going, to photographic records of my favourite people. And since I’m never without my phone, why would I need to remember all that stuff in my head?
At brunch with girlfriends, my phone sits on the table rather than in my handbag. It is face down and set on silent; it’s a pathetic attempt to be ‘polite’. When I get up from the living room floor where I’ve been playing with my son, I take the phone with me to the kitchen. Why exactly, I’m not quite sure. I might need it, I reason to myself.
I’ve been trying to sleep with the phone charging in the bathroom rather than beside my bed. I can still hear it ping during the night though and I can’t stand it. Can’t stand to lie in bed knowing there is some stimulation, some new information, some interaction there that I haven’t accessed yet.
I can’t wait because I’m addicted.
I probably pay more attention to my phone than I do to my husband most days. Don’t feel too sorry for him though because he pays more attention to his phone than he does me. Such is the stuff of love in 2017.
Author, Simon Sinek says our obsessive reliance on smartphones is because they provide a dopamine hit for the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. Its release is closely connected to the motivation-reward parts of the brain, as well as the stimulation of pleasure and pain responses.
Dopamine is triggered when we get a nice text message or clear another line on Candy Crush or receive another like on our Instagram photo. This makes us feel good about ourselves. We’re excited by the arrival of good news. We’re proud that somebody loves and has validated our existence. We feel a sense of achievement and we want more.
Our smart phones provide infinite possible dopamine triggering actions. So much so that the mere electronic pinging of a phone creates a happy buzz of anticipation. The very possibility of what that smart phone noise represents is enough to trigger that dopamine hit. No wonder I can’t go to the kitchen without it.
Yep this pretty much sums up the family dinner table in 2017.
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I like to tell myself that phone addiction isn’t so bad. After all, the only reason I want it near me all the time is because it’s my connection to the world, to the people in my world.
Except that’s not really true. My phone inhibits relationships far more than it enables them. It creates a reality where my mind is always on the people not present, rather than the ones who are.
I am at dinner with my husband — a rare baby-free night out just the two of us — and my mind wanders. I receive a text from sister, an email from a client and a Whats App message from my mother’s group. Each communication draws my attention away from the man sitting opposite me, shifting it elsewhere.
There’s a reason we all love ‘getting away’ during the holidays. Yes, it’s nice to visit beautiful places and enjoy a change of scenery. But far more importantly, a holiday lifts us from our ordinary environment and forces us to refocus on what is immediately in front of us.
On holiday we leave behind the hassles of work and groceries and childcare pick-ups and did you remember to put the recycle bin out? It’s what allows us to genuinely relax, thinking only about the people and places and purposes right in front of our eyes.
Smartphones are killing our annual holidays but also our micro-holidays. The breaks we should be taking each day, to connect with the people we’ve chosen to share our lives with, are being hijacked. We don’t switch off. We don’t recharge. We don’t shut-out the world and escape anymore.
My dad is a baby boomer and he uses a smart phone but has a more sensible relationship with it than me. On Christmas Day, his phone decided to end its life. I was horrified, knowing several public holidays lay ahead and that dad would have to go at least 24 hours without it.
One week later, I noticed that dad still hadn’t bothered to get a replacement phone. There was too much fun going on with holidays and family and delicious food. He didn’t want to miss out on the best parts of life by wasting time in a queue for a shitty piece of technology. This is his favourite time of year.
Why would he need a new phone so urgently anyway? He and my mum have been married for almost thirty years … He knows her number by heart.
In this case, one must surely be careful with this devices, try to pay more attention to your family, in order to avoid this. .
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