How To Date Your Smartphone

Love is a drug and so is your smartphone. So how do we find the right dosage?
Publish date:
December 31, 2014
relationships, obsessions, smartphones

This was supposed to be an essay about romantic relationships, but every time I began typing I would get distracted by this other dysfunctional relationship I'm dealing with -- the relationship I have with my iPhone.

I'm visiting my parents right now and they don't have wifi, so I can use my laptop without the temptation of going online. However, my phone was next to me begging to be held. So I handed my mom my iPhone and said "Do not under any circumstances give me my phone for the next two hours."

I am extremely embarrassed to admit how distracted I am by my iPhone. While I have consciously worked on not letting my phone interfere too much with my social activities, when I'm alone it's my boo.

When I stay home to watch a movie, my smartphone snuggles up to me trying to steal my attention away from the film. I end up half listening to the movie and half reading the Wikipedia page of that actress on the screen because apparently I need to know immediately if she is that same girl from that show, and then I read that she is only 23 and then I read that she has been a successful working actress since 16 and then I feel bad that I am not and then I have no idea what the movie is about because I just missed the last three scenes.

When I am in bed, my iPhone loves pillow talk. Before I fall asleep and when I wake up I scroll and click, I keep telling myself "just one more minute" only to have an hour pass. If you were to quiz me on what I just read or saw, I would not be able to recount much of what I read or saw, nothing is absorbed. It's like getting too stoned and eating a lot of pizza really fast: I wasn't present and didn't enjoy it, I just feel full and gross.

When I sit down to write an an article or a script my smartphone is there, tempting me with admiration. A TV pilot takes months to complete and there's no promise that it will ever get made or that anyone will ever read it, but a Tweet could offer a hit of instant gratification. A Tweet could get lots of RTs and make me feel nice for about half an hour. And then I can Tweet something else that could get lots of RTs and I'd feel good for half an hour. Tweet, repeat, tweet, repeat. Hours have passed, no script is written and I feel like a failure. All I am left with is my iPhone battery and my time both totally drained.

I obviously can't speak for everyone, but I think a lot of people act like, "yeah, me and technology are totally cool" but behind closed doors the information and the speed and the links and the likes and everything are getting to us. (If you disagree, please watch "Black Mirror" on Netflix, holy shit). Chances are you are already very aware that we need to loosen our grip on our screens and keypads. Or rather, our screens and keypads need to loosen their grip on us. Yes, it feels nice to be held but I also need some space. Love is a drug and so is your smartphone. So how do we find the right dosage?

Now before you continue reading, please place your hands on your lap, close your eyes and breathe. Do this for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, it doesn't matter, this article will still be here when you get back.

Hi, welcome back! I didn't want to write another "We need to unplug!" article and then ironically post it online without actually offering a chance to unplug for a moment. It feels nice to stop and be in moment sometimes, right? Imagine if everyone took a moment to stop and breathe everyday? We might all be a little more (gasp) chill?

Anyhoo, smartphones. I sort of envy my parents -- two Italian immigrants with flip phones who don't have a clue what a selfie, meme or a "like" is. Once in a while I'll relay some social media news to them about a family member :

Me: "Oh, cousin so-and-so got a new car."

Mom: "They called and told you that?"

Me: "No, it's on the computer."

Mom: "Why?"

Me: "Because they shared it."

Mom "With just you?"

Me: "No, everybody."

Mom "Why?"

Me: "I don't know."

Mom: "Does everybody put everything on the computer?"

Me: "Kind of."

Mom: "Don't they have anything better to do?"

For myself, I know the answer to that question is a resounding yes! However the question I don't know the answer to is how? How do I keep my iPhone and the Internet in my life in a healthy, moderate way? Well, I think this where some good ol' dating advice could actually come in handy to help us be in healthy loving relationships with the Internet and our smartphones.

Don't be so available: The same way waiting by the phone for a guy to text comes across as desperate so does waiting by the web for a "like." Anytime I've tried too hard or done something because I needed attention it has always been a flop.

When I've texted a crush late at night because I was lonely, we never ended up together. The same way when I post a status on Facebook because I'm seeking validation, no one notices me. But when I'm just posting because I feel like it and it's genuine and I'm too busy to notice who cares, there is an organic response. It's as if the universe knows I'm being needy and wants to teach me a lesson to be more self- reliant and "like" myself.

Create boundaries: When you're dating you don't share all of yourself right away: you build trust, you give and receive, you get to know one another over time. The same goes for the Internet. I don't need to let everyone know what I'm doing as it's happening. I don't have to react publicly to every news story, celebrity death or social issue. I can be selective with who gets to see pieces of my private life. It's nice to maintain a little mystery whether I'm on a first date or on Instagram.

Make time for yourself: Being too attached to something can cause you to get lost in it whether it's a new person you're dating or your Android. Too much of someone or something can cause you to forget who you are and what you want -- it can become an escape. A good relationship requires balance. Not only do you risk losing yourself, but you can also lose your appreciation for the object of your affection. When I'm online for hours, everything starts to blend together, but when I go online for shorter increments I use my time more wisely and appreciate my interactions more. It's true; distance does make the heart grow fonder.

Pay attention to red flags: Your significant other is supposed to lift you up, not drag you down. If a relationship feels toxic you leave. Do the same with technology. If an app or site makes you feel bad, visit it less or delete it.

I notice that when I spend too much time zoning out on Facebook on my phone I feel bad, and yet I keep going back. If my boyfriend made me feel like garbage every time we went out, eventually I would end it, so why am I not doing the same with media? So I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. Now if I want to check Facebook I have to go through my web browser. I still hop on a few times a day but for way less time and way less frequently which has improved my mood.

Be realistic: Sorry, but there is no prince that will sweep you off your feet and rescue you from your every woe, the same way there is nothing you can download to magically heal your wounds. While our smartphones can offer us moments of inclusion, admiration, connection, they are just moments. Self-love lasts a lifetime. No one can love you till you love yourself, not even your Twitter followers.

And if all else fails, ask a loved one to hide your phone from you. Self-control can be a hard thing, and there is no shame in getting help to adjust a habit. I've deleted guys' phone numbers from my phone because I didn't trust myself not to drunk text them the same way I asked my mom to hide my phone because I didn't trust myself to not get lost in the web when I want to be productive.

And here's the cool thing: about 20 minutes ago my mom put my iPhone beside the table where I'm writing and I didn't rush to it like two long-lost lovers running toward each other in an airport to embrace. By just changing my habit for a few hours I already feel a little less under the spell of that sexy temptress known as the touch-screen.

And that's how my iPhone and I hopefully lived happily and healthily ever after.