(From my 5/2/17 NYTs article. Read it here.)
We love our phones. We sleep with them, eat with them and carry them in our pockets. We check them, on average, 47 times a day — 82 times if you’re between 18 and 24 years old, according to recent data.
And for good reason: They tell the weather, the time of day and the steps we’ve taken. They find us dates (and sex), entertain us with music and connect us to friends and family. They answer our questions and quell feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
But phone love can go too far — so far that it can interfere with human love — old fashioned face-to-face intimacy with that living and breathing being you call your partner, spouse, lover or significant other.
Here are some suggested ways to break up with your phone long enough to connect with your partner.
Designate “no cell” zones in your home. With your partner, decide which areas of your home, such as the living room and the kitchen, should be technology-free. And consider eliminating phone use in the car so that you can use that time to talk to your partner about whatever is on your mind.
Try a phone-free bedroom for one week. Yes, it’s fun to check Twitter just before bed, or when you’re sleepless at 2 a.m., but you might be more likely to converse with your partner if the phone were elsewhere. And just the act of favoring your relationship over your phone sends a clear message to your partner.
“Buy some old-fashioned alarm clocks for your bedside table,” Dr. Turkle suggested. “Put your cellphones in a basket in the kitchen.”
Keep phones off the table. When you’re eating at home or in a restaurant, keep phones off the table. The mere presence of a cellphone — with the possibility of it chirping or buzzing at any moment — can inhibit the free flow of conversation, according to a study published last year in the journal Environment & Behavior. Researchers examined how conversations between two people were influenced by cellphones. When a phone was present during a conversation, the partners rated the conversation as less fulfilling and reported less feelings of empathic concern than when phones were absent.
Practice phone etiquette. If you must look at your phone, announce that you are doing so. “I am just checking the score/weather/playlist for two minutes,” shows courtesy and indicates to your partner that you are aware that your attention is shifting. It may also make you more aware of how often you pick up your phone when your partner is present.
Should your partner seem reluctant to let go of ingrained phone habits, consider turning to an objective source. Rather than wag your finger, you might suggest that you both take a closer look at your phone habits.
“Couples need to form an alliance and decide together what are the new rules,” Dr. Turkle said.
Dr. David Greenfield, a University of Connecticut psychiatry professor and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction developed a simple quiz, the Smartphone Compulsion Test, to help determine if a person’s phone use is problematic. Let the score be the judge, rather than you.