In the land before time, pre-modern technology, couples had regular meals…in silence. Well, that’s what I assume anyway. In general, people were probably all really exhausted from trying to survive.
Post techno explosion, it used to be that wives would have to beg their husbands to turn off the ball game blaring from the television during dinner. Even in their earliest days, devices still interfered with meal time.
In today’s world, things have only gotten worse. So much of our lives are dependent on looking at a screen all day, and now our computers are also phones. As we greet every New Year, it becomes increasingly harder than ever to disconnect. Let’s face it, we’re all hooked, and no is more negatively affected by addicts than their loved ones.
Now, it’s even more difficult to compete for your significant other’s attention with work emails at all hours, Twitter, Facebook, and new kid on the block, Instagram. Let’s be real, we’re all culprits in this crime of neglect.
Up until recently, I had been on my boyfriend’s case about checking Instagram at meal time pretty hard. Whether it was at home, in a restaurant, waiting for food, or even while eating, taking out his phone was just a reflex. It was like he didn’t even realize what he was doing. We are both busy independent people; we don’t live together, so mealtime is a great way for us to catch up and spend quality with one another.
I was big time peeved! Don’t I deserve his full attention?!
Then it hit me. The only reason for my whining girlfriend act was because I wasn’t able to sit on my own Instagram like a mobile troll. You see, for far too long I was operating on a very old iPhone 3gs, essentially living in 1982. My phone would not stay on for more than five minutes, if not plugged in, which basically meant I was carrying a landline line my purse. That said, I couldn’t use my phone like a normal, human, technology-obsessed loser.
You see, before my phone started to crap out, I realized that I ALSO checked in with all my friends, their dinners and their pets, constantly. I had never noticed how disrespectful we had treated each other, until I was without.
But I guess the real question is why are we doing this to each other? It must go beyond the accessibility of the devices, and speak to something about us and the way we communicate. I asked my boyfriend for his answer to the question. He thinks that we turn to our phones during moments of the mundane because we already know so much about each other. After being together for almost a year now, there’s little need for filler conversation.
Furthermore, maybe he’s right that we don’t need to catch up in the evening. gChat, texting, and email have provided us with the means to stay connected all damn day. By the time dinner rolls around, we’ve already given each other the blow by blow, in real time.
Maybe it’s me who needs to grow beyond traditional relationship behavior expectations. Perhaps I need to interpret the phone attention as a sign that we’re comfortable enough with each other to not speak, and not an indication of neglect or disrespect. Really, what’s the difference between us sitting with our heads together pursuing Instagram and an old married couple quietly reading the paper over tea? It’s just a new take on an old scenario. The latter clearly seems more romantic, but maybe my perception of romance also needs to change in this digital world.
Even as I wax progressive, it still makes me somewhat sad to see couples sitting at a table, standing in a line, or even just waiting around, all with their necks craned away from their partners’ faces. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just started dating someone, or have been in a relationship for years, it seems like we can only get as close as an iPhone’s width apart (at least the five is thinner!)
Still, there has to be a balance between allowing technology to change our daily relationship norms, while still maintaining traditional means of tech free intimacy.
Heather is a contributing editor at the-dah. She is a Los Angeles based writer, improviser, snacker, social media mistress, and aspiring adult. Read more of her food-stained stories about growing up weird at Terrible-Twenties.com, or follow her digital alter ego @MissHezah on Twitter.
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