A tech widow or widower is someone who has lost the attention and affection of their spouse to the bright lights and instant gratification of an electronic device. Be it computer, e-reader or smartphone, it’s easy to get caught up in the flashy action of a call, alert, alarm or ring-a-ding of a new notification. And your loved ones can sometimes get pushed out of the way for a cheap laugh or instant update. Science is confirming that our brains are susceptible to unhealthy heightened reactions from newfangled tech devices. And we can even succumb to e-addictions. But if your e-love is driving a wedge between you and your real love, here are some ways to stay out of the sim-doghouse and on your sweetie’s good side.
Face-to-face means just that. Speak to your loved ones face-to-face. Not face down in a screen-to-face, or another screen conversation. If you get an alert, alarm or call whilst having an exchange, leave it until the conversation is over. If it may be urgent, excuse yourself and answer it or reply in another room. When you and your honey are in each other’s personal space and spending time, make sure it’s quality. Really be present. And keep your electronic and romantic lives not just cordial or polite, but physically separate.
Give your partner undivided attention. And make it intentional. Put your device on silent, right in front of her. Then turn it upside down and put it out of the way. Forget about it. Then focus your love, attention, affection and energy on the one who can give you what no notification can, real intimacy.
When it’s time for bed — sleeping or otherwise — power down your devices. Light some candles, burn incense, and put on some soothing music. If you still have a record player, play it. If not, you may use your computer or phone as a music player, but try to keep the ambiance as natural and analog as possible. Even the chirp of crickets, rustling of leaves and whirring of wind would suffice. Then snuggle up and get cozy.
Take an entire day to be completely powered down and offline. No computers, e-readers, phones, e-mails, nothing. Go back to the Stone Age, where you cooked a meal from scratch, talked about your day, played, went for a walk outside or even dared to catch up on some Zs.
Finally, when you do power back on and check all of your missed calls, messages and alerts, make sure your better half doesn’t get swept under the rug. Use your digital prowess to score concert tickets, make reservations, or update you on the latest local festival. Then go. And leave your tech device someplace secure, where it can’t interrupt your couple time. If you enjoy being high-tech together, play a computer game or app as partners on one device. Not against each other on separate screens.
Tech etiquette is a learning experience. It’s hard to know what follows, bends and breaks the rules because there’s been so much change in such a short time. But if you’re in a quandary about whether or not your e-dependence has gone from nuisance to rudeness, just remember that old adages still apply:
Look at someone when they’re talking to you.
Just being around someone is not being present.
And listening is more than just hearing.
With just these three principles, you’ll be well on your way to having a respectful relationship with both man and machine.