Three’s a crowd: why it’s time to switch off mobile phone ‘infidelity’

Are you panic-stricken by missing a message, turning off your tweets or failing to file a status? Does your blood pressure rise when your battery life falls? When you lose reception, do your marbles go with it?

If the answer is to any of these is ‘yes’, then it’s time to recognise the signs of Nomophobia.  Otherwise known as ‘No-Mobile-Phone Phobia’.  Google it. It does exist.  A by-product of the technological world we live in. And it’s going viral.  A recent study found 66 per cent of people in the UK feel the fear of separation from their mobile phones.

I have observed that someone who can’t bear to be apart from their mobile, will display other symptoms too.  As interaction with your smart device increases, direct human contact decreases. I am calling this Mopho-delity.  Or Mobile Phone ‘infidelity’.       Definition: when a smart phone becomes the third person in your relationship.

If an alien were to observe life on earth, what would they make of our behaviour towards our phones.  After all, we stare at them longingly.  The apps, facts, and photos make us laugh, smile and sigh.  We want to be ‘liked’ and ‘favourited’.  The devices rarely, if at all, leave our sides.  An extra-terrestrial life form would be forgiven for thinking us humans had evolved to establish a more meaningful and loving relationship with these mini computers, than with our fellow beings.

Early on in my relationship with my husband Lee, we smugly identified symptoms of Mopho-delity in others. At our first dinner date, we enjoyed mocking another couple, who were busy interacting with their mobile phones and not with each other.  But, several years on, I was surprised to find how easily we lapsed into the very same behaviour. Rather than seek affection through old-fashioned real-life face-to-face interaction, we had become far too reliant on our phones to provide instant gratification.

Of course, technology can be a blessing as well as a curse.  Sometimes romance and smart phones make perfect bedfellows.  Internet dating has led to many a wedding amongst my friends and my marriage may not have happened without a little twitter flirtation.  And now it’s a long distance one, we certainly owe a lot to mobile video calling (Lee plays club rugby in France).

Finding our soul mate and being able to spend time with them in the flesh, should be enough to give us the willpower to put our smart-phone love affair on hold.  Instead, there seem to be worse trends emerging.  Couples now think they can cancel out or conceal their Mopho-delity by publicly communicating their affection to each other online via their ‘third party’ technology.  DDAs (digital displays of affection) are giving PDAs (public displays of affection) a run for their money. And they should not be tolerated.  I don’t want or need to read on Facebook how much one of my friends adores their partner.  Nor do I need to read how much he loves her in return. Particularly, when it turns out they are actually sitting on in the same room, on the same sofa.

It is time for a rebellion.  As is often the case, it’s already underway in America.  One place in Los Angeles is offering customers a 5 per cent discount if they’re prepared to leave their phone at the door.  The owner of the restaurant in West Hollywood said he made the offer to diners after going to eat with his wife and finding ‘ the cell phone [as] part of the table setting. Every table you look at, it’s a wine glass, the silverware and the cell phone.’

My husband and I have, at least, recognised the symptoms early and prescribed treatment.  At the Byrne dinner table the rule is talking – not texting.  Mobile phones are banned. Well, most of the time anyway.

From my Cardiff Life column. 

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