Are you married to your smartphone?

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NHINDERED and undistracted time with your spouse is a quintessential ingredient to a healthy marriage. We have replaced our innate craving for silence and stillness, with entertainment and frankly, our iPhones. When an opportunity for silence and stillness presents itself in our lives, we are quick to fill it with the thousands of voices on our Facebook feeds, e-mails, and text messages. Our brains now crave stimulation, when what we actually need (in order to live at peace) is silence and stillness.

The world we live in is rampant with distractions vying for our attention at any given moment. We live in a constant state of stimulation – in our cities, airports, workplaces, homes, and in the palm of our hands…  We are prone towards consumption rather than contentment. Multitasking is no longer a skill that some possess, but rather a standard and norm. We fall into the trap of doing more, reading more, posting more, buying more, “liking” more, and sharing more, and we forget to just BE. These efforts may have increased our width of knowledge/skill, but they have compromised our depth of intimacy in relationships. Our phone usage is the biggest and most obvious interruption to/distraction from, moments of quiet contentment with our spouse, friends and family.

You walk into a restaurant and you notice a couple seated near you. You observe that they really are not together because one or both of them are hunched over a smartphone. And you think, how sad that they aren’t talking to each other. Remember those days when you could go to a movie and not worry about being distracted by ringing phones or by the white glow of someone texting a friend or checking Facebook? Remember when people didn’t text while driving? Adjusting to new forms of technology is nothing new. Just think how telephones and automobiles changed our culture. Or air-conditioning. Radio, television, computers, and many other new inventions sparked significant changes in our culture and in the way we related to our family and friends.

But the pace of change has been breathtaking. We’ve seen the emergence of the internet and of mobile phones, and then the convergence of the two in 2006 with smartphones. We can now be plugged in wherever we are, 24/7.

The technology is evolving so quickly that most of us are barely aware of how our behavior is changing and our relationships are affected.

Replacing conversation with connectivity

Some people gravitate toward texting or Twitter for communication just as they did years ago toward e-mail—it’s simpler, faster, easier. What they don’t realize is how much is lost in those mediums—emotion, facial expressions, tone of voice, and much more. It can be dangerous to replace conversation with connectivity.

The problem is that real relationships require real conversation and real emotion. Digital connectivity is missing one crucial element: true connection.

When we text, e-mail, Facebook, and the like, we lose a vital piece of relationships: the emotional connection. Without the sound of our voices, the body language, the touch, we as humans lose what God intended to be a vital part of how we are supposed to relate and a vital part of how we are supposed to receive love and be in communion with others.

Household rules

It’s not that the technology is inherently bad; far from it—it helps us connect with people in many positive ways. The problem is that so many people are unable to control it. It’s as if they are married to their smartphones.

What can you do?

1. No devices at the dinner table.  Dinner time should be reserved for face-to-face conversation. There will be plenty of time after dinner to reply to phone calls and text messages.

2. No technology on family dates. When you are out at restaurants, you are not allowed to use your phones unless it is a call from the babysitter. We all need to find time daily to disconnect from all the information and reconnect with our families with good ‘old-fashioned’ conversation.

3. When you have something important to talk about, do it in person. No texting or talking on the phone. There is a huge gap in a ‘conversation’ when texting because you don’t fully understand what that person really means unless you hear the tone in their voice or see their face, and a lot can be taken the wrong way, creating bad feelings, etc.

Love the one you’re with

All these boundaries establish a strong value for your marriage and family: When you’re with someone, make that relationship your priority. Establishing this value will require some retraining if anyone in your family is addicted to their devices. But keeping them in their rightful place will, in the words of one reader, open up the door to more intimate communication. We must be willing to exercise self-discipline with our phone use, and rediscover the peace the comes from undistracted time with those we love.

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