We are living in a world where it is so easy to be overtaken by the technologies we hold in our hands. Often, it seems, they hold us, instead of us holding them. I confess I too am guilty of obsessively checking my phone for the next email or facebook post, for waking up and immediately going over to my phone as if I were checking on it like a baby in a cradle. How are we faring in this ‘brave new world’ and how we might find a better balance? Nowhere is this more pressing than in our romantic relationships!
One of the more prevalent, insidious, and troubling things I see most in myself and in my clients is the quickness with which we can be addicted to our smart phones. Endlessly scrolling our facebook/instragram/twitter feeds, we can easily move into a hypnotic trance, gazing into the screens of our phones as if into the eyes of a lover. We are seduced into believing that we can multitask between the virtual and real worlds, when in fact, we are becoming zombies, half-listening and losing eye and heart contact to what is most important—true presence with the ones we love.
Put another way, smart phones easily have the capacity to become our mistresses, the object we go to to satisfy and fulfill our fantasies so that we don’t have to contend with the complexities and challenges of connecting in reality. We are all susceptible to being swept away by our smart phones like a siren song and while it is normal, we still need to consciously work on making space to maintain proper balance. We can do this by periodically ‘checking our phones’, like our coats, at the door to make sure we are truly present with the ones we love.
We also need to be mindful of how our phones can, at times, serve as an escapist crutch, moving us away from engaging not only the difficult moments in our relationships, but also the simple, yet profound moments of just being with our partners. Our phones easily interfere with what Martin Buber called “I-Thou” moments, when we are profoundly communing with the ones we love and losing track of ourselves in what feels like eternity. This is so important because this is the space in which true connection and profoundly romantic moments occur.
Smart phones dominate us with the what the Greeks called chronos, the objective and ever-slipping away sense of time, the need to continually ‘go, go, go!’ This moves us away from kairos, the moments in which we lose ourselves and forget all sense of objective time, and profoundly connect with subjective space of transcendent connection.
Making sure to balance our connection to our smart phones enables us to stay linked up to the most important and primary technologies we have: empathy and presence. Moreover, it helps us remember that the foundation of a relationship with another is the capacity to truly be there, open to the exciting and often unexpected unfolding of a spontaneous, intriguing, and creative connection!
Michael Alcee, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who works in private practice in Tarrytown, NY and serves as the Mental Health Coordinator at Manhattan School of Music. He specializes in relational therapy that incorporates balance between our inner and outer technologies. For more info on him and his work, check out his LinkedIn page or his website at drmichaelalcee.com.