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EDDIE THOMAS, Star Tribune

Digital devices cutting into our relationships

  • McClatchy News Service
  • February 14, 2013 - 8:47 AM

Unless you live in a hand-hewn cabin in the woods, you probably experience a daily, overwhelming lust for technology.

Your fingers flit over the face of your iPhone. Twitter vies for your attention, constantly throwing out new lines. You nuzzle into the familiar embrace of television — only to find your eyes wandering over to the gaming station. And Facebook relentlessly pursues with its promise of virtual voyeurism.

We are tantalized by technology. What’s worse, so are our partners. But when our significant other falls for this same seduction, we often fail to see the charm. Digital advances mean we must compete with an increasing number of technological suitors for our partner’s attention.

How do you get your partner to disconnect from his/her gadgets long enough to connect with you?

 

KNOW YOUR RIVALS

Social media

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter account for nearly 23 percent of our time spent online, according to Nielsen. Social media combines communication and gadgetry, appealing to both women and men. But women (ages 18 to 34) are the most avid users of social media, according to Oxygen Media and Lightspeed Research:

• 39 percent refer to themselves as Facebook “addicts.”

• 34 percent get on Facebook first thing in the morning (before going to the bathroom or brushing their teeth).

• 21 percent check Facebook in the middle of the night.

Smartphones

A phone can be the biggest little barrier in your relationship. It’s always there — on dates, on the treadmill, by your bed. The phone is often the most unshakable form of technology. After all, that incoming text or call could be important. Then again, so is your relationship.

Internet/e-mail

Some people enjoy being connected electronically as much as they do physically. The effect is similar to playing a slot machine, according to David Greenfield, psychologist and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. A response such as winning money reinforces and validates your original behavior. You may not win every time, but odds are you’ll eventually get something good. The same goes for checking your e-mail 20 times a day or visiting countless websites. We get a shot of dopamine (a pleasure chemical), too, prompting us to crave more.

Gaming

Gaming consumes 10 percent of our time spent online, according to a survey by Nielsen. Men seem especially vulnerable to this siren song. A study led by Fumiko Hoeft of Stanford University’s School of Medicine reveals the portions of the brain associated with reward and addiction are more active in men when playing a simple video game.

Television

We spend about 2.8 hours a day watching TV, roughly half of our leisure time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many women claim to be “sports widows” for the duration of football, basketball and/or baseball season. And women can just as easily get lost in the tangles of television: dramas, sitcoms, talk shows, soap operas and reality shows.

Multitasking

It is especially difficult to witness your partner “cheating” on you with multiple technologies at once. The amount of time spent watching TV while simultaneously surfing the Internet grew 34.5 percent in 2009. When you indulge in multiple forms of technology at once, the opportunities to connect with your partner are even more remote.

 

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