How many times have you felt powerless to see how your partner spends all his time on the phone when he is with you? While the Internet has opened the doors to a universe of knowledge, the technology to access the network of networks has become the number one enemy of human relationships, at home or at work.
A study by the Keller Center for Research at Baylor University sheds light on how this widespread habit interferes with the life of a couple. Out of a sample of 143 people, 70% said that their relationships are “sometimes”, “often”, “very often” or “all the time” affected because they or their partners do not put their smartphones aside.
Phubbing – a name that combines the words “telephone” and “rebuff” in English – is what is called the practice of interrupting interaction with others to pay attention to the cell phone. When this happens in a relationship, the consequences can be serious for the future of it.
Although the distraction caused by the media and technologies is not new, warns the clinical psychologist Eduvigis Cruz-Arrieta, a specialist in couples, depression and anxiety, the study delves into the harmful effect of this reality. “People have at hand the consumption of information in three different ways: text messages, telephone messages and Internet searches.”
Any time someone pays attention to something else instead of focusing on the live relationship tends to cause friction in the couple, but also at work, in the family or in social groups, warns the expert.
Obsession by the telephone
Several studies show that people in the United States spend more than four hours on average on their mobile devices such as phones, tablets or laptops, and 86% of that time, according to Flurry, is spent using cell phones. Almost two hours a day are spent on information consumption in social media, according to MediaKix.
“There are people who stick to their phones to be curious about what happens on social networks and this becomes a source of fun,” warns the psychologist. The risk is that without self-control, this hobby can easily become an addiction such as gambling or drugs, alerts Cruz-Arrieta.
Several studies show that people in the United States spend more than four hours on average on their mobile devices such as phones, tablets or laptops.
In the office, smartphones can affect employee productivity, as demonstrated by an Office Team report, released by Forbes magazine. Based on the pattern of use of these devices by more than 600 executives, it can be said that an individual loses eight hours of work for doing other activities -such as checking social media, betting or buying online- through the cell phone.
“A reality of modern life in metropolitan areas throughout the world is that rest time is not always respected,” says the psychologist. Therefore, “sometimes there is no balance in life due to the social and economic demands that affect how one controls his time and the priorities of his life”.
In the same way, adults may be promoting this sometimes addictive behavior to their children. An investigation by Common Sense, a non-profit educational organization, reveals that 98% of households with children between zero and eight years old have tablets or smartphones, which children use at least 56 minutes a day.
Distracted in privacy
But entertainment can lead to a deeper problem in privacy, says Cruz-Arrieta. One of the things that can hide the excessive use of the telephone is that the individual needs to disconnect from tensions within the couple, avoid conflicts through distraction or seek emotional satisfaction through comparison with other people in social networks.
“It can be an antidote to the real or imagined loneliness they have in their life as a couple or in their family environment,” he adds.
The time spent on cell phones can reduce the possibility of having a meaningful interaction with a loved one, explains the study by professors James Roberts and Meredith David of Baylor University. In a follow-up survey of 145 adults, almost half (46.3%) said they felt their relationship was affected by phubbing and almost 40% of them confessed to being depressed about it.
“Technology facilitates maintaining secrets among people,” Cruz-Arrieta points out. It also reflects in a certain way “the lack of appreciation for other people’s time,” he adds. In that respect, Roberts and David conclude: “Cell phones, originally designed as a communication tool, can, in fact, ironically, impede rather than cultivate satisfactory communications and relationships between romantic partners.”
A seemingly inconsequential practice like this can not only undermine the foundations of a loving relationship, but also awaken sleeping demons.
“People can develop symptoms of sadness and anxiety,” insecurity and lack of self-confidence, says Cruz-Arrieta. “It’s a two-lane highway, because sometimes what you can do is to enhance existing problems by feeling belittled, not well-loved, ignored.”
Many times, the excessive use of the telephone reflects work pressures. Others, the need for people to have an “assistant for thinking”, continues. “Memory failures or the inability to activate memory when needed occur because it is distracted and technology helps us in those moments.”
However, the great risk is that there are those who live an alternative life through their devices to “maintain real or platonic relationships” that technology facilitates without having to travel, says the specialist in relationships.
Eye vigilant, “one can be emotionally unfaithful with a platonic relationship, because to be so you do not have to have physical intimacy with someone”. Sometimes, just one click is enough.
Tips for phubbing control
For the person who uses the telephone in excess:
1) It is important to ask whether the personal use of technology is helping or interfering with relationships with their loved ones.
2) Change the frequency and intensity of its use, so that it is not greater than the time of interaction in person with others.
3) Establish rules of use to address the impulse to use the telephone and, at the same time, not affect the time to do other things.
4) There are applications -like Moment or Offtime- that tell you how many hours a day you are using your phone. Reviewing this objective measure on a daily basis will give you a better idea to plan a routine of use.
5) Take the time to travel to work or school to satisfy this need.
6) Avoid using telephones, computers or tablets, one hour before sleep, because the bright light of the screen affects sleep.
For the person who feels affected:
1) Talk to the telephone user using this strategy: express what you feel without recrimination.
2) To not feel insecurity, resentment or jealousy, it is best to communicate your feelings directly.
2) Avoid fights, because they can reinforce the behavior that bothers us.
3) Ask: How can I help you to achieve it? Offer suggestions such as turning off the wifi or set a time to not have the phones at hand.
4) A person who is isolated from daily interaction and gives priority to the telephone may feel dissatisfied. “Can we talk so that you are less stressed with the use of the telephone?” It’s a question to open the dialogue.
5) Distinguish if the couple’s attitude implies unresolved problems or if you are reacting excessively.