Mobile phones are having a detrimental affect on our ability to build and maintain relationships.
Our growing reliance on mobile technology has given rise to all manner of unwanted behaviours, from social withdrawal, lowered self-esteem and even feeling ‘phantom’ phone vibrations. According to behavioural psychologists, the fear of being separated from your smartphone is called ‘nomophobia’, and it’s something that hits more than three-quarters of people in the UK.
A recent study by Intel Security, co-opted by behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings, found that 79% of Brits feel anxious or extremely anxious when they didn’t have their phone with them. This could be having a harmful effect on relationships as partners increasingly finding themselves “playing second fiddle” to their loved one’s mobile device.
In a study of 13,000 people worldwide, that including 1,000 UK residents, a third of Brits said that their partner often appeared more interested in their smartphone than them, and felt they had to battle for their loved one’s attention. The survey found that couples were often left disgruntled as mobile technology got in the way of intimate or romantic moments.
This was particularly prevalent among 18-25 year olds, with over half of those surveyed saying that a mobile phone had interrupted private moments with their partner.
Hemmings, a relationship coach and media personality who has appeared on ITV’s Daybreak, said: “People are undoubtedly obsessed with their smartphones and it’s clear that the younger generation, in particular 18-24 year olds, are especially so. Every detail of their lives is stored in their handset – from photos, messages and emails to social media, news and dating.
“Phones have become behavioural comforters, in much the same way a baby chews on a soother or a blanket. It has become an essential part of social connectedness with the smart phone pretty much becoming an extension of themselves.”
The irony of smartphones, Hemmings said, was that they had led to a breakdown in communication in relationships – despite the fact they have enabled us to connect with people all over the world. As a result, people are using increasingly using mobile phones to avoid awkward or uncomfortable situations.
Intel Security’s study found that 38% of Britons opted to have difficult conversations via text or over social media to avoid having to do so face-to-face. “Even if two people are in the same room at the same time, while they are using their smartphones, they are not actually communicating with each other,” Hemmings said.
“People report feeling neglected because of their partner’s phone or tablet obsession. These feelings of neglect often turn into a deeper-seated resentment, where arguments and a complete breakdown in communication becomes more likely.”
Mobile phone dependency can cause physical symptoms too. The University of Michigan Institute for Social Research recently published findings on a study linking smartphone addiction and phantom vibration syndrome, a phenomenon whereby people believe they are receiving a phone call or message when they are not.
Nick Viney, VP of Consumer at Intel Security, said: “The mobile has revolutionised the way we live, with instant access to the internet at the tap of a finger. Our reliance on connected devices has not only impacted our relationships with those closest to us, but has made accessing personal information incredibly easy for ourselves as well as for cyber-criminals.
“Spending too much time on your mobile may mean you lose connection with your partner.”