A young couple is sitting in a restaurant. He tells her something, which makes her smile, and they share a passionate look. The next moment, he shivers and reaches out for his mobile that has just vibrated in his pocket. Immediately, she reaches out for hers and starts checking the latest Instagram. The moment is gone.
How often do you see this picture? How often are you part of this picture?
An appalling 75% of women say that their digital devices ruin their relationships and intimacy. Conflicts within the couples, higher rates of depression and lower life satisfaction is the price we pay for staying connected all the time. Alarmingly, younger people are even more likely to report tension in their relationships over technology use.
The power of hormones
The main problem with digital devices is that they ruin intimate relationships invisibly, changing us on physiological level. Our relationships are mainly ruled by two key hormones – dopamine, the hormone of pleasure, and oxytocin, the hormone of bonding. Dopamine gets released when we eat chocolate, have sex, find interesting piece of information or get social recognition, and especially when we anticipate any reward. Dopamine is the hormone that gets you all excited when you are dressing up for the night to finally meet your date.
However, technology has made getting dopamine easier than ever. All you need to do is to post a picture on Instagram, get a like or two and bum! – you’ve got your dopamine injection! More likes – more dopamine! No need to even make any sexual moves. No wonder that some research shows that couples who have iPads in their bedrooms have little to no sex life. Our brain simply finds it more pleasurable (and easier, too) to get dopamine online than to engage into sexual activities!
Oxytocin, the bonding hormone, develops when people touch each other, share important experiences – and most importantly, when they are fully present for each other. However, when your device is constantly on and you are getting distracted, the quality of your bonding just cannot improve! Being distracted in a relationship means that we don’t have time or energy to build a deeper understanding of the person. Even worse, when your brain is overloaded with constant information (which happens to you when you are online), it has no time to develop so-called higher emotions, like compassion, that take some time to process information.
Save your love
Unfortunately, telling your darling just to stop staring at their mobile doesn’t normally help – they have already been hooked on a hormonal level. One option of saving your relationship is going on a digital detox trip, something more and more couples decide to do. According to Snaptrip, an online travel company, 70% of respondents are willing to go on a ‘digital detox’ weekend (i.e. limited phone reception and no wi-fi) with their partner to improve/save the relationships.
However, escaping for the weekend will give you a break, but it doesn’t solve the major “hook up” problem – if you want to keep your intimate relationship thriving, you first need to review your own relationship with technology.
Become more conscious about what you are doing on a daily basis and make choices all the time. For instance, stop putting your mobile phone on the table or anywhere visible when you’re with the loved one – it’s been proven that people perceive their conversations as less intimate if the device is present, even if on silent. Make certain areas of your flat i.e. bedroom tech-free. Try it at least this St Valentine’s weekend – being fully present with your second half will be the best gift for them.
PS Consciously Digital is running a special promotion with 20% off our signature Declutter Your Digital Life course this weekend. Making space in your digital life is a great step towards improving your relationship with those you truly care about. A couple can use the same access code.
Dr Anastasia Dedyukhina is a keynote speaker, author of Homo Distractus, professional coach and a pioneer of the Consciously Digital™ concept.