I was listening to Sunday Night Safran this morning and during one of the segment breaks, John Safran and Father Bob McGuire were discussing the use of phones during sex. Except Father Bob didn’t want to say “sex” on national radio, so they described it as “checking tweets” during a “near death experience” – very cute Father Bob.
This isn’t the first time I had heard about this, but I thought it was time to look into these reports in a bit more depth.
What I discovered was that this is not just here-say, but that there have been a few different surveys about the use of phones and social media during sexual intimacy, or sexual non-intimacy as the case may be.
For example, a survey conducted by Vouchercodespro.co.uk in July 2013 found that amongst the 1,700 British men and women surveyed, 62% of women and 48% of men have interrupted sex to check their phone – to answer a call (34%), reply to a text (24%), check an email (22%), or use social media (4%).
As I’m a big proponent of mindful sex, my first thought was that this was about as mindless as sex can get!
But the plot thickens…
As well as this checking of phones during sex itself, other surveys are suggesting that many people are choosing their smart-phones over love-making in the first place. Whether it be scrolling social media, cruising online porn, or replying to messages from people not in your bedroom – there is a rising popularity of digital connection over sexual connection.
And the theory here is that this is one strong reason why the frequency of love-making in couples has decreased over the past 10 years. That and the global financial crises.
So what do our phones and tablets have that real relationships don’t?
- They turn on and turn off whenever we want.
- They take minimal effort to relate to.
- They don’t reject us (unless we forgot to charge).
- They have a constant stream of novel and interesting ideas.
- They are replaceable and upgradable.
- We never have to feel guilty for saying “Not tonight phone, I’m a bit tired”.
- We are easily and readily immersed in their world.
- They do not argue or demand (except perhaps with the morning alarm).
- They do not have preferences of their own and simply exist to please and assist us.
Whether its avoiding real intimacy to be with a screen, or an inability to let go of the connection to a phone during real intimacy, its no wonder people are getting lost in this world of technology-intimacy when it takes away all the things that frustrate, worry, and unnerve us about real-life connections.
The problems are pretty obvious though.
Firstly, this kind of technology-intimacy is one-way, and for most people that is hollow and unsatisfying in the long-run.
Further, this focus on techno-connection is often at odds with our values. This means people may get that instant gratification, but perhaps paired with an overall sense of neglecting their real-world responsibilities.
By being “at odds with our values”, I am talking about the variety of values and beliefs people may hold around relationships and intimacy. Some examples of this are:
- Relationship are an integral part of health and happiness.
- Positive relationships need effort and investment over time.
- Fostering a healthy sex life is an important aspect of an intimate relationship.
- Relationship-growth and personal-growth are fundamental aspects of positive relationships.
- It is important to help my partner feel loved, attractive and desirable.
- Relationships are about give and take.
- Acceptance and tolerance of differences is important… etc.
We all deviate from our values from time to time, and our values can also include an appreciation of online connection and down-time. Where the problem lies is when we are repeatedly living life on impulse, rather than investing in “values-guided action” – actions that may take a bit of time and energy, but inevitably lead us to richer lives and richer relationships in the long-run.
Taking a call during sex when you and your partner know you’ve been waiting to hear back from that job interview all day – well that might not be such a big deal. But repeatedly prioritising your technology…. well maybe this one is in need of some self-reflection.
And really, this idea of values-guided action reaches much further than just how we use our phones and tablets. In a more general sense, this is all about how we as individuals lead conscious, mindful lives and positively contribute to our own relationships and sex lives.