“Only the united beat of sex and heart together can create ecstasy.” – Anais Nin
Remember when getting away for the weekend was the perfect cure for couples in need of a little ‘us’ time? A romantic jaunt out of town, away from friends, family and pot plants, once meant that there was nothing to do but each other. These days, most of us have a stowaway in our pockets that comes along for the ride: a smartphone. With its addictive Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram apps that we feel totally complied to check whenever we get a free 30-second window, a device designed to help people stay in touch can ironically be a connection killer for couples – not just on holidays, but also in everyday life. So, does your relationship need a social media detox?
The Digital Divide
It’s no longer unusual to see a couple sitting across from each other at a nice restaurant, staring down at their iPhone screens instead of each other. Is this third wheel in the modern relationship making it harder for you to connect? I’ve seen many couples struggle with the issue of one or both partners being distracted by technology. People are often not truly present when they are with their partners, because they are constantly checking their phones and not really being in the room with them. Many people feel they aren’t connecting to each other anymore.
The digital divide isn’t the only side effect a serious social media habit can have on your relationship. If both you and your partner are frequent updaters, you might know so much about the minutiae of each other’s daily lives that there’s nothing left to talk about when you’re actually together. It can get quite boring if you know exactly what your partner has been up to all day – you’ve got nothing more to add. You can lose a little bit of mystery or romance.
The Offline Solution
So, could swearing off social media for a few days as a couple be the new weekend escape? I’m definitely in favor of the idea. I can’t think of anything that is good for you if you indulge in it 24/7, and social media is no exception. You need a break, so that when you do get back online, you can see what works for you and what doesn’t. Going offline for a short time might even make you realize that your shared digital addiction has a significant impact on your relationship.
Going tech cold-turkey
In order to test this theory, I gave one couple (Seb and Justine) a mission that they (somewhat begrudgingly) accepted: to abstain from using any social media for a weekend to see if it has any effect on their relationship. Will they strengthen their bond and feel closer? Or –gulp – realize they have nothing to talk about?
The rules: neither partner is allowed to access Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Foursquare, Pinterest (you get the idea) for a whole weekend. It’s not a total technology ban: they can both still use the internet and send or check emails – but only if necessary.
Justine told me how it all went down:
“Seb and I are several-times-a-day users of Facebook and Instagram, and I occasionally go on Twitter. Sometimes at night Seb goes into what I like to call a “Facebook trance”, where he sits there for over an hour reading other people’s updates, clicking on links to articles and watching funny videos.
Day One: We started on a Saturday morning. Usually the first thing I do is turn off my alarm clock and check Facebook. I had to force myself not to look, but after that it got easier. I noticed Seb struggled a bit more than me, as he always needs to be occupied somehow.
Day Two: I do feel like we talked a lot more than usual. We went out for breakfast on Sunday morning, and while waiting for our food (a time we would typically check our phones), we were chatting. I started to think, ‘Wow, this is really working!”… and then Seb’s phone rang. There is no total escape!
The verdict: A weekend was too short to really affect our relationship, but since our ‘social media escape’, we’ve decided to check Facebook and Instagram less on the weekend, to make the most of our quality time together. When we were out to dinner the other night, we both put our phones away and talked about our days instead. It was so fun.”
Therefore, if you’re on a bus or train, then sites like Facebook are great, but if you’re with your partner (or anyone else) and you’re in a Facebook trance, it becomes anti-social media. And that’s really not what Mark Zuckerberg had in mind.
Have a quietly happy week,
P.S. Also, constantly checking your phone means you’ve got a need that your partner’s presence can’t fulfill!