For 62 per cent of us*, it’s the first thing we look at in the morning. They run our lives, containing our schedule, emails, apps and social life. But increasingly, smartphones are becoming the competition in our battle for our partner’s attention. In restaurants, while spending time with friends, and even when watching TV with our partners, chances are that one of us is tweeting about the experience, or uploading an Instagram picture, instead of enjoying the moment.
According to author Tom Standage, when using smartphones, ‘We’re still negotiating what an appropriate amount of privacy is.’ Oxford University neuroscientist Susan Greenfeld acknowledges the benefits of living a more connected life than previous generations did, but says, ‘it sucks away interaction with, and experience of, your feelings about the real world,’ weakening friendships, as things you would previously have kept between your close friends are shared among a wider network of online acquaintances. If yours or your partner’s smartphone is third-wheeling in your relationship, try social psychologist Dr Aleks Krotoski’s tips to ensure that quality time remains between just the two of you.
- Make an agreement to commit to spending time together without your smartphones. Set specific timeframes that work for both of you, whether it’s for an hour when you both get home from work or when you go out together socially at the weekend.
- Create no-phone zones for specific problem areas, for example, at the dinner table or in the bedroom.
- When you’re using your smartphone in company, think about the person you’re with. What are they doing when you’re using your phone? Is your attention focused in the right place?
- Include the person you’re with so they don’t feel excluded. Share the video you’re watching or tell them what the friend you’re talking to is up to.
- Ultimately, it’s about self-discipline and taking personal responsibility for the amount of time we spend on our phones. Just because we have constant access to the online world doesn’t mean we need to use it 24/7.
* IDS report sponsored by Facebook
Tom Standage is digital editor of The Economist and author of Writing On The Wall (Bloomsbury Publishing, £14.99)