Extra Virgin :: Smartphones & Intimacy
This month, we’re talking about the way technology influences our sexuality. While we all definitely have some strong opinions about the topic, I’d like this to be more of a discussion. This is such a new and evolving issue and I’m interested to hear your thoughts on it and how technology may have affected you or those around you. In each post, I’ll pose a question and then wait to hear from you in the comments.
Several months ago I was at the library and spotted an issue of Psychology Today in which the cover article was about technology and romantic relationships. The article deals with all kinds of issues—technology, cell phones, porn, etc., but there was one paragraph that stood out to me ::
In a much-discussed 2014 study, Virginia Tech psychologist Shalini Misra and her team monitored the conversations of 100 couples in a coffee shop and identified “the iPhone Effect”: The mere presence of a smartphone, even if not in use—just as an object in the background—degrades private conversations, making partners less willing to disclose deep feelings and less understanding of each other.
This study cannot be surprising to most people in a serious relationship. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a group of women discussing the frustration of a spouse glued to his phone. Even the article later states that 18% of young adults in relationships argue over the amount of time spent online. But it is chilling to hear such objective results from a scientific study—the presence of a smartphone will inhibit intimacy. One man gives a very relatable example of how and why this is true ::
“The way my wife winds down before bed is to look at Facebook,” he says. “For me that’s such an important time for talking and sharing the moments of the day, and for intimacy, physical and otherwise. She says, ‘Just ask me and I’ll put it away,’ but that doesn’t feel very satisfying.” It carries little receptivity to the kinds of probing conversations they used to have when they were getting to know one another, the kind of talk that comes unbidden, bubbling up from the depths through comfortable, warm silence—too fragile to rise to the level of significance demanded by a declarative “Let’s talk.”
Just reading that paragraph makes me long for more “comfortable, warm silence.” I’m as guilty as anyone of reaching for my phone—almost without thinking—during those lulls in conversation. But of course it’s in these moments that you remember the little things you wanted to say, the times you thought of him during the day, perhaps even feel a small flutter of attraction. Or maybe you just have a chance to align your schedules so you don’t get in a fight about a double-booked evening…
The rest of the article is so thought-provoking (warning: the section on porn presents solutions that would not be godly or helpful for married couples) and brings up issues that we would all be wise to address in our relationships. But to keep things simple, here’s my question for today ::
Assuming a husband and wife continue owning a smartphone, what might be some action steps they could take to protect and nurture intimacy in their relationship?