How my iPhone addiction ruined my marriageComment on this story
London - Do you prefer to spend all your evenings exchanging messages with strangers rather than talking to your husband? Are you so distracted at bedtime that sex is off the agenda?
If so, you may well have infomania — an unhealthy addiction to your smartphone — and experts warn it could have serious consequences for your relationship.
It is something Julie Marlow, 31, knows only too well. “I take my iPhone with me everywhere,” she says. “I keep it by my bed and even use it while I’m in the bathroom or eating dinner.”
Julie also admits she sometimes refuses sex with her husband Frankie, 32, an IT consultant, because she’d rather be on her phone. Unsurprisingly, her high-tech dependency is causing serious problems in her relationship.
“Twitter is the biggest issue,” she says. “I’ve tweeted 32,000 times in the past 18 months — that’s an average of 60 a day. It’s mostly mundane stuff such as whether I’m cold, bored or tired.
“I also let followers know where I am, be it on the school run or out for dinner. Frankie often complains that I’d rather talk to the rest of the world than to him.”
Julie, who lives in Gloucester, is a full-time mother to Jenson, four, and Damon, ten. “I look at blogs written by other mums when Frankie’s at work, but even when he’s home and tries to initiate sex at bedtime, I’ll often say: ‘Sorry, I’m busy on my phone.’
“On the occasions I don’t refuse sex, I check my phone immediately afterwards. Our relationship was closer and more harmonious before mobile phones became so advanced.”
There are 33 million Brits with Facebook accounts and 11 million Twitter users. The Tavistock and Portman NHS clinic in London has a unit dedicated to technology addiction. Celebrity Twitter-fan Peaches Geldof attracted criticism after she stayed glued to her smartphone when her son’s buggy hit a pothole, tipping him on to the pavement.
Infomania — information overload, caused by the continuous interruptions from and urge to check our smartphones — has become a huge problem which, if left unchecked, can ruin relationships and cause people to become divorced from the real world.
Chartered psychologist Thomas Stewart says that while smartphones are brilliant for connecting us with other people, when used to excess they can cause real issues within personal relationships.
“If you’re engrossed in a smartphone, you’re not paying attention to your partner,” he says.
“Apart from being rude, when someone prioritises their phone in this way it can lead to their partner feeling neglected and resentful — especially if the person is glued to social media such as Twitter or Facebook and, therefore, communicating trivia to followers they barely know.”
This reliance on technology is also fuelled by people’s growing fear of missing out — whether that’s attending a party, learning about a breaking news story as soon as it happens or keeping up with celebrity gossip.
Aimee Bradley’s smartphone obsession was one of the reasons she and husband Davin, 29, went to marriage counselling a year ago. “We’ve had countless arguments over my phone,” says Aimee, 29, who lives in Chichester.
“Davin complains that he might as well not be there and I’m more interested in my phone. But it’s hard to ignore a beep or a flashing light to alert me to a new tweet, Facebook post or email.
“Plus, as I work for an online boutique, people expect you to reply straightaway.”
Aimee and Davin married in May 2011 and even argued on their honeymoon about her addiction.
“At counselling, Davin raised my infomania as a major issue. He said he felt neglected.
“Pre-smartphone, we’d have conversations uninterrupted by an email alert and would cuddle on the sofa in front of the TV. But he feels I’m too busy with my phone to do that any more.”
Their counsellor suggested they take radical action to repair their relationship.
“We agreed I’d put my phone down at 7pm each night. We’ve also been going out once a month and the deal is that I have to leave my phone untouched in my bag,” she says. Psychologist Dr Jane McCartney says such informal curfews on smartphones are more realistic than going cold turkey.
She also advocates that there are ways we can use our phones to engage with a partner.
“Talk about the things you see or read on your phone in the same way you might chat while watching a TV programme together.”
It’s something that graphic designer Chiara Stone, 32, and her husband David, 35, a children’s author, are working on.
“With two children, quality time together is already at a premium and he feels he’s sharing me with my phone,” she says.
‘It’s become such an issue that I agreed to leave the phone in another room two nights a week.’
Two months on, Chiara admits these strict new measures are already having a sparkling effect on her marriage.
“Engaging with David instead of my phone has given me a new appreciation for time as a couple,” she says. “He no longer feels resentful of me being permanently glued to the phone.”
So for infomaniacs, this could be proof that it’s worth breaking up with the interloper in your marriage — especially if they need to be plugged into the wall to be charged overnight. - Daily Mail