New research on our bedtime phone habits shows exactly how far tech addiction is affecting our closest relationships, with a clear and detrimental impact on sexual intimacy.
We all know that taking your phone to bed is a sloppy habit for all kinds of reasons – not least its impact on a good night’s sleep.
And now an alarming new study has laid bare the toxic effect that phones in bed have on relationships, too. Nearly three in four Americans take their phones to bed with them and more than a third admit their sex life has suffered as a result.
Around 25% of adults say the last thing they see at night is their phone screen and a staggering 93% sleep with that screen by their bed, according to survey data compiled by global tech solutions firm Asurion.
Researchers from the company grilled 2,000 American adults on their bedtime phone habits. They found those who take their devices into bed with them are twice as likely to use it rather than engage in any amorous activity.
Over half (55%) of those questioned say they feel like they are missing out on quality time with their partner due to the time they spend scrolling their handsets.
“The survey reveals that phones aren’t just changing how we socialize and stay connected, they’re influencing how we relate to each other in our closest relationships,” says Asurion spokeswoman Bettie Colombo.
It’s perhaps little surprise that phone addiction poses such a threat to our closest relationships. In 2015, photographer Eric Pickersgill chose to document how this erosion of intimacy takes place by capturing portraits of couples and removing their phones.
The eerily familiar results, documented in his project Removed, pinpoint exactly how isolating phone use can be. Pickersgill came up with the idea after realising how much time he and his own wife spent on their phones in bed.
“As I fall asleep next to my wife, we rest back to back on our sides coddling our small, cold, illuminated devices every night,” he said at the time. “[…] It was a way of addressing an issue I had with my own habits, but one I also have with my wife.”
In a review paper published this year in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, University of Arizona psychology professor David Sbarra and his team examined the effect of divided attention on relationship conflict.
“When you are distracted into or by the device, then your attention is divided, and being responsive to our partners – an essential ingredient for building intimacy – requires attention in the here and now,” Sbarra explained.
Since technology is “not going away, nor should it”, this was not an attempt to judge technology, he said; rather, his research aimed to understand the way it is pulling us away from face-to-face interactions.
Part of this realisation comes in being able to acknowledge and talk about the effects of phone use. And happily, data from the latest study by Asurion shows that couples are willing to do that. A third say they have discussed the need to disconnect from their phones in bed; even if 10% do sleep with their devices under their pillow.
Images: Getty, Thought Catalog on Unplash