Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal
I’ve been seeing a lot of new studies lately about all the ways technology destroys our social and romantic lives. The statistics are certainly compelling, but as I sit alone in my room, staring at my flashy electric light-box, I find myself protesting their primary assertion that the problem is the technology.
The fact is, technology is nothing more than a tool – a tool that we can use to the detriment or the enhancement of our social and romantic interactions.
Consider the Terminator. On the one hand, it was a terrifying death machine bent on the destruction of mankind. But on the other, without the Terminator, Sarah Connor never would have met her hunky man from the future, Kyle Reese. So, from that perspective, the Terminator is nothing short of a laser-toting Yenta!
“But Jenny,” you protest, “the Terminator is a speculative technology from a fictional story.”
Yes. That is the single, solitary flaw in that example. So, let’s look at a real-world technology: the cell phone.
Of all the technology cited for destroying our social lives, the one that comes up the most is (ironically) the technology whose primary purpose is to help us communicate. These pocket-sized electronic beasties have become a problematic part of modern dating. Whether it’s because one person is so addicted to their phone that their significant other feels like a third wheel to a piece of circuitry or because of a drastic text message miscommunication, the fact remains: dating in the time of cell phones is tricky. For example, I once had a guy cuss me out via text because I didn’t respond to his “had a great time on our first date” message within a few hours. I happened to have been at work, and hadn’t had a chance to check my personal cell. When I did get the message, he received a prompt reply – which contained a few choice words of my own.
So, would it shock you if I said that none of these are examples of how smartphones ruin our dating lives? Well, hold on to your yarmulkes, because that is exactly what I’m saying!
Smart phones are only as intelligent as the people using them. So if you’re having dating and relationship problems, it does you no good to assume the fault lies with the phone. Can texting or surfing the net become habit-forming? Sure. So can chocolate or owning puppies. Does that make you physically incapable of putting your gadgets away when it is not appropriate to be using them? In the vast majority of cases, the answer is a resounding “nope.” If you use common sense, and constructively communicate with your partner about their feelings on the subject, you can not only avoid any technological pitfalls, but actually enhance your relationship.
For instance, while texting is a terrible medium for intense and emotionally-charged conversations, it can be a fantastic way to let your significant other know you’re thinking of them. Likewise, while withdrawing into your own little technology bubble at dinner is extremely rude and a surefire way to tick off your date, using your phone to share a fun video or look up a fact that applies to your dinner time conversation can be a fun way to get closer to the person you’re with.
So, as you go forth into this brave new world, think of your technology as a metaphorical hammer. If it is wielded without care, it can result in sore thumbs and sadness. But when used correctly, it can be a useful instrument as you build your relationships. But please, don’t use your smart phone to help you hang a picture frame.