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I Love My iPhone More Than My Husband

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Buzz, Family

My phone is more exciting than my spouse; what can I say?

I love my phone! I'll admit it, it's hugely helpful both in my work and personal life. And frankly, at times, it's fun!   In fact, sometimes I find it to be more exciting than my husband! But, how can that be, as I truly love my husband?  Let's look at what's really going on a little more closely......

I can't count how many times I have been at an event with my husband and found that I "needed" to (again) just quickly check email, scroll through Facebook, or be sure that I missed nothing urgent on the never ending newsfeed.   And honestly, I do it even though I think it's hugely rude!  (Yes, I'm one of those!)

So many times I've rationalized by saying to my husband something or other about checking work email.   You know, I'll just check once… or twice… or 15 times… what's really the harm?  So I sit down on a chair, or "discreetly" turn away from the group to check the phone for just a second. Then, there are those times when I'm watching a movie at home with my husband.    Nice quality time right?   You'd think so, except I'm not truly with him.   "Well, where are you?" you ask.   Good question! Well, I'm on (I'm real estate obsessed) or Rue La La (I love a deal) or, of course, checking work email to justify my behavior!  In these moments I think, "this is fine, there's no harm."  As a psychologist I truly know better; I know that we had all better think again!  

As  I'm answering a work email or quietly scrolling away in search of the perfect house or the greatest boots, my brain and emotions become over-stimulated and excited.  My nervous system shifts into high gear and stays there;  if I "slip"  into playing games, I find that I'm now working to survive, collect coins, gather weapons, and protect supplies or land.  My heart rate increases from an average of 80 to 100 beats per minute and blood pressure raises from a normal 100/70 to 140/90.  I am charged, ready to compete, ready to "fight!"  Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, is now flooding my system.  Levels of the so-called feel good hormone, dopamine, also are flooding my system and elevating my mood.  At this point I feel great!    I'm searching through different neighborhoods, that I already searched earlier in the evening, or moving from one boutique to the next (maybe no Rue La La boots for me today, maybe a dress!).   Now remember, all the while I'm spending quality time with my husband (phone), activity engaged in watching a movie!

But here's an interesting part of the problem, the only part of me likely moving is my eyes and thumbs.  I am locked into a screen that is sending signals to my brain saying,"this feels great, this is exciting, do this MORE!"  If something is exciting and makes us feel good, wouldn't we want to spend more and more time with it?  Of course!  Unfortunately, this proves true whether it is a husband or a phone!  At this point, my wonderful husband may be asking me a question.   If he's lucky, he'll get a glazed, dazed "Um hm."   Less lucky.....he gets radio silence!    Then there's the fact that I have no idea what's going on in the movie.   So naturally I have to ask one clueless question after another!   My husband, patient though he is, eventually becomes frustrated.  He says," can you just watch the movie?   Now I can't follow what's going on with all of the talking and questions!"   

While I'm enjoying my feel good cocktail (my phone), my husband is getting aggravated.  Now, add to my wonderful cocktail the very intense visual stimulation the games, Facebook, or email provide the brain and, before long, the brain adjusts to the heightened stimulation by shutting down parts deemed non-essential. In this case, what proves nonessential is watching the movie or noticing my husband's existence! At this point you may be asking, "wait a minute, are you saying that parts of the brain go "offline?"   The answer is yes, that is precisely what is happening.  Think about it, in the honeymoon phase of relationships we only have eyes for our potential spouse.  In this scenario we only have eyes for that which makes us feel good… those darn phones again!     Is that so bad, you might ask? Well, if we are disconnected from everything else around us, the answer is absolutely yes.  Our brain is being flooded with dopamine, that feel good hormone that is rewarding us for paying attention to the phone but is also rewarding us for ignoring our loved ones!

I suspect some of this is sounding familiar at this point.  So, what's happening?   Well, as I said before, we are flooded with that feel good hormone dopamine. But, remember that we also are being flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, those hormones that make us ready to fight or escape.   Remove the feel good source, the phone, and you  have one aggravated, impulsive wife!    At this point, I'm likely snapping at my husband, and my son for that matter, and feeling pretty on edge.  And, then there's the fact that I'm constantly reminding my son to limit his screen time (but that's another article). Not the relaxing, connected family time I was hoping for!  

But, long after we put the phone away it's effects on us remain.    Perhaps, like a husband, we long for that phone… we want to check something on it "just this once."   As that feel good dopamine starts to drop, the levels of stress hormones, or cortisol, remain high. This might leave you feeling forgetful, spacing, or even depressed or anxious.  Of course we need the stress response  triggered by cortisol for emergencies and for motivation to get things done. But, repeatedly enduring the fight or flight response when no threat is present,  such as when we are loving all over our phones, does more harm then good.   When the fight or flight response is triggered too often, or too intensely, the brain and the body have difficulty regulating themselves.   This leads to a state of chronic stress.  Chronic stress also is triggered when there is a mismatch between the fight or flight response and energy expenditure (as is the case when we are playing video games or are otherwise engaged in screen time).  The fight or flight response is meant to trigger the expenditure of energy.  But this does not occur when we engage with screens.   Research currently demonstrates that an increase in the stress response is associated with screen time even among those who exercise on a regular basis.  Research also shows that the stress response is induced irrespective of the content of interactive screen time.  But, once chronic stress sets in, blood flow is directed away from the higher thinking part of our brain (the frontal cortex) and toward the more primitive areas necessary for survival.  This quickly can result in impairment of functioning including difficulty paying attention, managing emotions, maintaining sleep, following directions, tolerating frustration, suppressing impulses, accessing compassion, and completing tasks.   In fact, the disruption to sleep alone can explain the challenges to mood, cognition and behaviors associated with screens.    When you look at it this way, is it really worth it? How can we truly "love" something that is so dangerous to our physical and emotional health when overused?  If my husband hurt me in so many ways, most would say that he was not good for me.   And, they would be right.  In truth, we need to seek out and love those who nourish and strengthen us.  I have learned my lesson long ago.  I choose health.....I choose love.....I choose my husband! 

Any questions, please feel free to reach out to me.    

This article was originally published at I would like to put this on my Blog, I want to posted there in about a month . Reprinted with permission from the author.

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