What Is Your Phone Doing to Your Relationships – Free Ebook

It would be most of our first choices to have
relationships in the real world; but for many

of us, it is a great deal more plausible to
pursue them with, and via, our phones. Phones

provide exemplary compensation for the frustrations
of living with actual people. Unlike them,

they are always responsive to the touch and
their malleability provides the perfect excuse

for disengagement from the trickier aspects
of true connections.

When a friend or partner launches into an
account of their day or an analysis of one

of our alleged faults, it becomes almost irresistible
not to give these phones a quick check: a

friend in another country may have just had
a baby or someone we vaguely know might have

a new opinion on a change in direction in
the nation’s foreign policy. Our phones

promise us access to people who are so much
less tricky than those in close physical proximity.

Humans we have known for years get judged
against angels we have yet to spend a real-life

minute with. At our most vulnerable moments,
technology companies promise us that they

will be able to locate that lode star of contemporary
romance: ‘the right person’. The pictures

they lay out before us are certainly beguiling.
The implicit thesis is that relationships

have gone wrong for us so far not because
they are inherently hard and we are properly

tricky to live with, but because we haven’t
yet found people with whom we are sufficiently

compatible. There is not much room for the
idea that compatibility may be an achievement

of love and should not therefore – fairly
– be expected to be its precondition. Then,

to compound the situation, our phones offer
to show us a fascinating range of people without

clothes. Porn doesn’t judge and it doesn’t
ask for anything back. Closeness to a real

life partner brings with it so many complications:
unresolved resentments, a daily need to put

up with a person’s less reasonable sides
and an imperative to face up to our own huge

failings. But the porn site doesn’t mind
that you slammed the cupboard door and it

has no desire to take you up on your attitude
to credit card debt. It doesn’t need intimacy

and it doesn’t complain if you don’t say
much. Its implicit message is: we don’t

care about anything other than your pleasure,
you can be as you are. With bliss and at a

terrible hidden cost, it removes sex entirely
from the emotional landscape. Then there are

the small hearts and ticks. It can feel desperately
naive or narcissistic to admit it – but

in essence, almost all of us deeply like being
‘liked’ – and our phones know this so

well. We are genuinely moved by a message
letting us know that Matteo from Wisconsin

or Emile from Livorno wants to be our friend.
These little words ‘like’ and ‘friend’

set off such deep and tender longings in our

The momentary excitement they unleash reveals
a secret pang of hope that our inner solitude

will be pierced, that our troubles and joys
will be truly understood by another; and that

all the messages we wish to send to the world
will be received and perfectly understood,

at least by someone. It is poignant – and,
in its own quiet way, properly tragic. We

should not be frightened by our loneliness
or by the difficulties of our real relationships.

What we should perhaps try to avoid is the
faith that our phones can offer us a genuine

solution to the tensions of love. We should,
when we can manage it (and often we simply

can’t), try to put these technological wonders
to one side and try to do something properly

futuristic for a while: attempt to love the
bewilderingly complex, often maddening and

sometimes very precious flesh and blood people
presently dwelling in

the vicinity.

If you want to learn more about love try our book on how to find love,

which explains why we have the types we do and how our early experiences give us scripts on how and whom we love

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