The Shockingly Simple Change That Can Improve All of Your Relationships
I was having a cup of coffee at the café a few blocks from my apartment when I noticed something that has become shockingly common nowadays. Seated a few tables from me was a young couple who seemed like they were out on a coffee date.
Everything looked okay, but there was one problem. Both the guy and the lady were on their phones. They were not talking to each other. They were not even paying the slightest attention to each other.
Each of them was deeply engrossed in their smartphones and the limitless world their smartphones gave them access to.
The scenario with the couple at the café is not a solitary case. It has almost become a natural part of the modern world. Next time you are out in public, try looking around and you will see it everywhere.
In cafés and restaurants, on buses and trains, in the park, at home, and anywhere else you look, you will find people paying more attention to their phones than to their surroundings and the other people around them.
The smartphone has become the most ubiquitous piece of technology in the modern world. It has also brought so much positive changes to our lives. Smartphones have put the whole world at our fingertips.
They give us access to unlimited information. We can communicate, shop, send money, plan our schedules, take photos and videos, budget, and do a ton of other things through our smartphones. Despite all these benefits, smartphones also have their drawbacks. We have become addicted to our smartphones.
According to this survey, almost half of Americans admit they cannot spend an entire day without access to their smartphones. Even as I was writing this article, I found my hand twitching towards my smartphone a number of times. This addiction to smartphones is having negative effects on several aspects of our lives, including our relationships.
Smartphones were invented as a way of making it easier for people to communicate and keep in touch. Unfortunately, while they succeeded in making it easy for us to communicate, they have reduced our ability to connect with each other on an emotional level.
People have become obsessed with texting and social media as the main means of communication, which has in turn made communication a lot less personal. People are opting for text communication over face to face communication.
Smartphones have also placed a lot of demand on our time and attention, which has in turn reduced the amount of time and attention we give to our relationships.
Like the couple from the café, we spend more time on our phones than we do connecting with others, which is negatively affecting our relationships with others.
YOU GIVE LESS ATTENTION TO OTHERS
Have you ever been talking to someone, only to realize that they are only listening to you half-heartedly and giving you unconvincing nods while all their attention is directed at their phones? How did it make you feel?
Using your phone during a conversation takes your attention from the conversation.
You become less engaged in the conversation, and the other person can actually tell that you are not listening to them. It shows that you don’t give much importance to the conversation.
On the other hand, by keeping your phone away during conversations, you are better able to concentrate on the conversation, engage with the other person and properly listen to what they are saying.
The person you are conversing with will notice your energy and they will return the same energy to you and the conversation will become more interesting. According to a paper published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, people feel more negative towards a simulated conversation when they imagine that the other person is paying more attention to their smartphone.
Another study published in Computers in Human Behavior found that conversations were less satisfying when one or all of the people in the conversation were texting during the conversation.
YOU MISS THE OPPORTUNITY TO CONNECT ON A DEEPER LEVEL
Today, a lot of people prefer communicating via text messages and social media compared to face to face or voice communication. A teenager today might opt to use Facebook to get in touch with his crush, when they actually go to the same school and see each other every day.
People in their twenties and thirties are foregoing approaching people they like in real life and opting to use apps such as Tinder and OkCupid to find dates. This preoccupation with electronic communication is robbing us of the opportunity to connect with each other on a deeper and emotional level.
Interaction between people is not limited to the words we say to each other. When interacting with other people face to face, we watch things such as their posture, their gestures, their facial expressions, their voice and intonation, and so on.
These non-verbal cues tell us more than the person is saying with their words and give us a deeper and more emotional understanding of what the other person is saying. Gestures such as hugs, a pat on the back, a stroke on the arm, or simply holding hands allow us to feel closer to others.
When we share a touch with others, our brains release a chemical known as oxytocin, which creates an emotional connection between us.
When we rely solely on text communication, there is no way for us to communicate non-verbally. Communication becomes superficial since it has been reduced to words on a screen.
The result is that there is less intimacy and emotional connection in our interactions, leading to weaker relationships.
LEADS TO FEELINGS OF JEALOUSY AND NEGLECT IN ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
Smartphones are responsible for a lot of broken romantic relationships.
According to a survey by psychologists from two US universities, 75% of women feel that smartphones are ruining their relationships. When you spend more time engaging with your phone than you do with your partner, it can make your partner feel like a third wheeler in the relationship.
It appears like your phone is more important than your partner, leaving him or her feeling unappreciated and neglected.
In some cases, your partner might even feel jealous and assume that you are cheating on them, since you give more attention to other people (those accessible through your phone) than you do to him or her. This can take a toll on the intimacy between the two of you and can even end up breaking the relationship.
IT AFFECTS YOUR MOOD
Your smartphone can also negatively affect your mood and in extension your ability to relate with the people around you. Social media is one of the top activities that people engage in on their smartphones.
At the same time, social media use has been shown to contribute to stress and depression, according to a study published in in the Clinical Psychological Science.
Social media makes it easy for you to compare yourself to others, which can ruin your mood. For instance, seeing photos of your ex’s wedding can ruin your mood when you are having a night out with friends, making it more difficult for you to enjoy the night.
Sometimes, spending a lot of time on social media can act as a replacement for social contact, which makes it more difficult for you to be comfortable in social situations in real life.
This can lead to isolation which reinforces your use of social media which in turn makes you more comfortable in social situations, creating a vicious cycle that undermines your ability to connect and interact with other people in real life.
HOW TO DITCH YOUR PHONE AND IMPROVE ALL OF YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
It is clear that your smartphone is doing harm to your relationships in more ways than one. One shockingly simple thing you can do to improve all your relationships, therefore, is to ditch your phone.
Keep it tucked away and you will definitely see and improvement in all your relationships with others – your parents, your friends, your colleagues, and your romantic partners.
Unfortunately, keeping away your smartphone is not that easy. We are constantly reaching for it to check for notifications. Sometimes, reaching for your pocket and not feeling your phone almost triggers a mini heart attack.
So, how do you keep it away to ensure that it does not affect your relationships? Below are some smartphone rules you should follow to prevent the gadget from getting in the way of your relationships.
Avoid Using Your Phone In Social Situations
Ignoring other people in favor of paying attention to your phone has become so common that there is even a name for it – “phubbing”.
This term was introduced as an attempt to push back against the social consequences of people paying more attention to their phones than to the people around them. Using your phone during a social situation does not just affect the people around you. It also affects you.
According to this study, people who are constantly on their phones during a dinner date with friends are more likely to get bored and enjoy the dinner less compared to those who keep their phones away.
Despite this, people still use their phones during social interactions. According to this study, 89% of smartphone users were on their phone at least once during their most recent social interaction.
If you want to keep the interaction interesting and enjoyable both for yourself and for those around you, you should avoid using your phone in social situations.
When you find yourself in a situation where you will be interacting with others – having dinner with family, sitting for some drinks with friends, chatting with colleagues at work, on a romantic date, and anywhere else – you should avoid using your phone.
Talk Now, Text Later
One of the advantages of smartphones is that they made everything available instantaneously and on-demand. That friend who is in a different country? You can reach him instantly through a WhatsApp message.
Seen something funny?
You can share it with the world instantly.
They basically allow us to be connected to the world from anywhere, at any time. On the flip side, this also means that people have access to us anytime, regardless of where we are, through texts, emails, tweets and so on.
Your boss can send a work email when you are on a romantic date with your spouse and distract you from the moment. The key to making sure that the texts and emails don’t distract you is to remind yourself that you can always reply to them later.
Focus on enjoying the current moment with the people who are physically present. Give them your complete attention. People won’t die because you replied to their text or email an hour later.
But wait, what if there is an emergency? If it was an emergency, don’t you think the person would have called instead of sending an email or a text?
Keep Your Phone Out Of Sight During Important Conversations
Sometimes, avoiding using your phone during a conversation is not enough. You should keep it completely out of sight. Having your phone where you can see it can be highly distracting, making it difficult for you to give your undivided attention.
Seeing your phone stirs thoughts about the things that might be happening in the world accessible through your phone. You might remember the photo you posted on Instagram. How many likes has it gotten so far?
How about the witty tweet you sent an hour ago? How have people reacted to it? These thoughts end up taking your mind away from the interaction.
All this is not mere speculation.
According to this study, the mere presence of a phone affects the quality of a conversation, even if no one is using the phone. It makes the relationship between the people in the conversation less empathetic and trustworthy.
Therefore, the next time you need to have an important conversation with someone, remember to keep your phone out of sight.
Experience Before Uploading
The age-old religious ritual of saying grace before a meal has been replaced by a new ritual – taking photos of the meal.
How many times have you seen millennials taking photos of their meal and posting them on Instagram before they start enjoying the meal?
How many times have you seen people go to a soccer game or a music concert and spend the whole time viewing the action through the screens of their phones?
Our preoccupation with smartphones and social media has made it much more difficult for us to enjoy experiences. Before having a meal, people want to show others on social media what they are having. If their social media followers don’t like the meal, you can bet that the meal won’t be enjoyable.
People go out on vacations with their significant others, but instead of enjoying the moment, they are only concerned with getting the right photo for social media.
How would it make you feel if you took someone for dinner, but they end up not enjoying it because someone on social media didn’t like what they ordered? Would you be interested in taking them out again?
If you want to improve the quality of your relationships, you should be more focused on enjoying the moment and the experience and less focused on sharing the experience with others.
Before sharing the meal with your followers, take the time to enjoy the meal and the company of whoever you are sharing the meal with. Before taking a photo and uploading it to show your followers the awesome scenery, take a moment to enjoy the scenery with whoever is right there with you.
Avoid Searching For Everything On Your Phone
In today’s world of search engines, Google maps and review websites, all the information we need is available with a few clicks.
This has made people more dependent on their smartphones than on other people, which has in turn led to decreased social interactions and connections.
According to this study, people with a smartphone were more likely to depend on the phone for directions rather than asking others for help.
The fact that all the information you need is available through your phone does not mean that you have to rely on your phone every time. Instead of checking review websites to find the best restaurant for a romantic date, ask your friend or colleague to recommend a nice hotel.
Instead of checking online to find the best attractions in a city you are planning to visit, ask the friend who visited the city last year for recommendations.
By turning to people for help instead of always searching for everything on your phone, you will increase the frequency of your interactions with people and see an improvement in the quality of your relationships with them.
Keep Your Phone Away From Your Bedroom
The addiction to our phones means that we always have them near us, including when we go to bed. According to a poll by Gallup, 63% of Americans sleep with their phones tucked beneath their pillows or within an arm’s reach from bed.
This might seem like a great convenience, since the phone acts as an alarm for some, and also allows you to check your social media for a last time before you sleep or catch up on your mail when you wake up in the morning.
Unbeknownst to you, your phone might also be the culprit for the dying romance between you and your partner. If you spend most of your time in bed fiddling with your phone, you will naturally spend less time fiddling with your partner.
According to a survey by Harris Interactive, 20% of young adults between the ages of 18 – 34 use their phones during sex. How do you even do that?
Carrying your phone to bed is not a great idea. Even if you don’t end up using it while getting intimate with your partner, it reduces the chances of seeing any action. If this becomes a habit, it can negatively affect the quality of your relationship.
Therefore, if you want to see an improvement in your relationship with your partner, you should consider making your bedroom a phone-free zone.
This way, you will have more time to talk and bond with your partner.
Have Phone Free Days
This course of action might seem a bit extreme, and to many, it might be quite challenging. Whenever you receive a notification that someone has liked your status, retweeted you post or replied to your message, your brain releases the chemical dopamine, causing you to feel a sense of pleasure.
This chemical reaction is what causes the addiction to your smartphone.
When you keep glancing at your smartphone to check for notifications, your brain is essentially craving for a dose of dopamine. This is what makes keeping your phone away so difficult. While it might be challenging, having phone free days can help you break your addiction to your phone.
Leave your phone at home for a day and spend the day interacting with people face to face or through your office telephone.
Doing this will help you enhance the connection with your friends and colleagues (they will appreciate that you went to talk to them face to face) while at the same time helping you break your smartphone addiction.
If you are addicted to your smartphone, it might be negatively affecting your relationships, even though you might not have noticed it.
Spending excessive time on your smartphone causes you to give less attention to people around you, denies you the opportunity to connect with others on a deeper level, leads to feelings of jealousy and neglect in romantic relationships and affects your moods, which in turn affects how you relate to those around you.
The key to improving your relationships, therefore, is to ditch your phone.
You can do this by adhering to the smartphone rules shared above, such as not using your phone in social situations, replying to texts and emails later, keeping your phone out of sight during important conversations, taking the time to enjoy the moment before sharing with your social media followers, asking others for help instead of searching for everything on your phone, keeping your phone away from your bedroom, or even opting to have some phone-free days.