When they wake up together, the very first thing Lexy Brooks and her boyfriend, Max Goldstein, both 22, do is check their smartphones for texts, Facebook notifications and sports scores.
And they certainly aren’t alone — a recent Logitech survey shows that young adults’ relationship with technology and human intimacy is, well, complicated. The intersection between the two has forged a love triangle unique to Millennials, who must balance one-on-one relationships with a craving for constant contact with the rest of their social network.
In the survey of 2,000 single adults, 18 and over, from four countries (500 from each the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France), 43% of U.S. respondents said that breaking their iPad would be equally or more upsetting than breaking up with their significant others.
Also, 74% of all respondents said it’s acceptable to reach for their tablet after being intimate with their partner, and nearly half of single women would rather spend the “morning after” with their iPads over last night’s date.
“[Our relationship] becomes slightly less intimate, since we’re always so connected to everyone else through technology,” said Brooks, who, like Goldstein, is a senior at Brandeis University studying history. “Our generation’s attention span is all over the place. Focusing on one person is hard for us.”
A 2012 Mobile Mindset study found that 64% of women and 73% of men ages 18 to 34 never go an hour without checking their phones. Thirty percent of respondents confessed to checking their phones during a meal with others, and 73% said that they feel “panicked” when they lose their phone.
Brooks, who has been dating Goldstein for three and a half years, said that the pair often lies in bed together texting or reading articles on their respective phones and tablets.
“There’s a breakdown of human interaction, connection and intimacy when we’re constantly using technology. It’s making us lose the key to inter-human relations, and it’s affecting romantic relationships,” said Bree Maresca-Kramer, a relationship counselor, author and talk-show host.
“I think it will most definitely lead to more unfulfilled relationships. We’re rapidly moving away from the emotional connection between couples, and that’s being replaced by this barrier of hiding behind screens,” she said.
A University of Essex study from last year confirms Maresca-Kramer’s theory. Researchers Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein discovered that when people engaged in personal conversations with a cellphone nearby — even if neither person was on the phone — it fostered less trust, less empathy and an overall lower relationship quality.
“I think that one of the things that happens with technology is that it becomes so amazing, so seamless and so much a part of our existence that some of the qualities in our social relationships are becoming less desirable,” said Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“Somebody who spends all their time on their iPad constantly checking texts, tweets and emails is sending hurtful non-verbal messages,” Klapow said. “Technology definitely can put a strain on a relationship. But you’d hope if the relationship is strong enough, the couple realizes that it’s more important than technology, and will make an effort to change.”
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