Technology vs. Intimacy: The Battle for Our Bodies

If you’ve ever gotten frustrated because your partner won’t get off their smartphone and come to bed, research shows you’re not alone.  Single people and those in long-term relationships are having less sex and experiencing less intimacy overall, and an examination of the issue suggests technology, harmful in plenty of other ways, might be to blame for this, too. 

Even in the younger age groups, sex is happening less frequently than in generations past and the culprit could be technology. With more people using their smartphones for everything from checking social media to watching movies, and increasingly during those evening prime-intimacy hours, technology is having an impact on both sexual activity and overall intimacy. 

Young People Aren’t Always Thinking About Sex

While people in middle age and beyond often think that young people are having sex and experiencing intimacy all the time, that might not actually be the case. Research into the issue shows that people who are in their early 20s today are 2.5 times more likely to be abstaining from sex than people in Generation X were at that same age. 

There are several reasons for that change, including fewer societal pressures to get married young and start families. Due to increasing opportunities, more young women are pursuing careers and looking to fulfill goals beyond those that include pregnancy, too. But among the reasons for the change in frequency is the development of technology and its use by those who may be spending more time with their phone than their partner.

There's a Name for Phone-Induced Intimacy Snubbing

A recent Baylor University study indicated that the use of cell phones is not only damaging relationships, but it’s leading to higher rates of depression, too. When one partner practices “phubbing," that is, snubbing their partner for their phone, the other partner experiences lower levels of satisfaction in the relationship. That can lead the phubbed partner to withdraw, reconsider the relationship, or even look for someone else. The Baylor study showed that nearly 47% of the survey participants had been phubbed by a partner in a romantic relationship and that it reduced their satisfaction with that relationship.

It’s About More Than Just Physical Intimacy

While it’s true that being ignored for a cell phone can be frustrating to most people, it’s not just the decline in physical intimacy that’s a problem. The emotional connection between partners is slowly being lost to technology-based interactions because those interactions often miss the mark when it comes to sharing feelings accurately. According to the Baylor study, partners who are phubbed aren’t as happy, and that leads them to reduce not only physical intimacy but emotional intimacy as well. They lose that connection with their partners, and then they drift apart. While technology isn’t the only cause of this lost connection, it’s almost certainly one of the causes.

Technology-Free Spaces May Increase intimacy

And this wasn't the only study to conclude this. Another study out of China found that phone use can harm relationships, lead to relationship dissatisfaction, and may lead to depression. As a response, many couples are choosing to create phone-free spaces, including, perhaps most importantly, in the bedroom and/or during certain hours. Of course, we all need to check for important calls or set alarms for the morning, but we can choose to keep intimate time, well...intimate, by putting our focus back where it belongs.

For people in relationships and those looking for them, how much time one or both people spend on their cell phones could play a big role in whether or not they’re compatible in the long run. Like common values, sexual preferences and religious views, cell phone use is quickly becoming an important part of whether an intimate relationship can survive. But it helps to remember that this isn't outside our control. We can choose to do better, and, if we want to have intimacy in our lives, perhaps it's time we do.

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7/22/2020 7:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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