What Do You Do When His Phone Is the Other Woman

Have you heard of street artist known as Banksy? He recently did a brilliant piece entitled “Mobile Lovers,” See above.

In Banksy’s most recent work we see a good-looking couple embracing, maybe coming together after a long day at work. Instantly obvious is that although they’re hugging, they are worlds apart mentally—both gazing deeply into their smartphones rather than at each other’s faces.

This “alone-together” theme is not so new anymore. Almost two-thirds of mobile subscribers in the U.S. alone use their smartphone and the presence of these gadgets in every area of life—from the bedroom to the doctor’s—it means there is no avoidance of technology without a mindful choice. When there is a silence in the conversation with your spouse, it’s just too easy to check Twitter. While every media-outlet in the world has addressed the question of whether “digital interference” is becoming a social problem, the question remains: Are our gadgets essentially getting in the way of intimacy?

There’s an easy answer to this query: Yes and no. Just like so much of life, how we relate with technology is about humanizing balance.

Have you ever sat around with a bunch of people sharing your beloved YouTube videos? It’s hysterical, and it’s extremely social. We laugh and joke, we look at each other, we riff on what others said. In this condition, technology is a vehicle for the coming together of real-people in real relations.

In Mobile Lovers, though, we see the shadier side, and I would like to propose that what transpires when we move from being really social with our technology to being digitally-distracted is a loss of relationship fidelity. In much the same way music enthusiasts warned of the loss of audio dependability in the movement from vinyl to cassettes to CDs and so forth, the digital split amongst family, friends or couples challenges the basic frequencies of communication and connection in a relationship.

Make Your Relationship “Lossless”:
Readers of my posts will know that there’s a mountain of evidence linking high value relationships with health and well-being. When we lose relationship trustworthiness, what relationship rewards do we lose along with it? Here are a few illustrations:

  1. Attention being looked-at, being heartened. Go back to the Bansky image. What kind of relationship is that?! It’s absent any factual attention or substance. It’s a low dependability hug.
  2. Feeling understood and reinforced—knowing that somebody gets your point of view and can back you when times are hard. Occasionally my spouse looks at her phone when I am telling her a story. I hate this with a passion—it’s like I am speaking to a wall. I do this too, and I am certain she hates too. Sometimes my child screams at me, “I AM TALKING TO YOU, STOP TEXTING!” At that moment, I feel very embarrassed and sad. It’s hard work to listen and sympathize with another person, and we’ve someway slipped into a national form of being halfway focused to each other most of the time. This is pretty disastrous.
  3. Belonging and sanctuary—when we’re attended to, understood, reinforced, and acknowledged, we feel we fit-in. Belongingness is a sense of security, a sense that you are part of something steady and solid. This is what we mean when we say somebody is our “rock.”She is there for me through thick and thin. Being there for someone involves presence, it requires showing up to deliver yourself. When our brain is on work, how can we be there for the children? When our eyes are on Twitter, how can we be there for our spouses?

A Resolution in Three Questions:
The pull-of-technology is quite strong. It is becoming gradually apparent that the fear of missing out (FOMO) is tangible. We constantly, even obsessively, check mail and social-media through-out the day because these mediums operate on a variable reinforcement schedule, which means that these doses of electronic interaction are circulated unequally and unpredictably, keeping us continuously coming back for more. We’re hardwired at a very profound level to respond positively to social rewards, and the variable pattern of reinforcement is what preserves us tethered so strongly to our gadgets. We can get another hit of e-social connection at any moment. In my previous article on this subject I recommended ways to get off technology more often. Though, to actually use technology well, we need to vigorously and persistently fit technology into our lives without falling into the Mobile Lovers snare.

We need to be mindful of what we are doing and how we are cooperating. If you stop once each morning and evening to ask yourself 3 questions, you can carry relationships front and center in your life. These are my 3 questions:

  1. Am I giving myself to my family and friends adequately? Am I there for them most of the time?
  2. Am I too into my iPhone or other devices? If so, what precisely can I do to change it?
  3. Do i balance my technology and using it to be social, or am I abnormally dedicated to updates, mails and texts and separating myself while submerged into them?

We all have to challenge the Mobile Lovers problem. Personally, I think the best way is to “change yourself.” It is a well-worn expression, sure, but I want high trustworthy relationships for myself and for all. The way to get it done is to start making some changes on our end.

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