“To Love, Honor and Vaccuum”, which is a blog I like to follow, asked a great question on Wifey Wednesday. This Post really struck a chord and I couldn’t pass it by without comment. I’ve been this and I’m not too proud to share the ugly truth. The question:
Is Screen Time Robbing Your Marriage?
I have heard this from others. I have observed it happen. And I have shamefully done it myself.
While I truly believe I was born for a time like this where social media and smart phones and technology can help us be more connected and more productive, it’s not without some painful lessons that I have learned to balance it. Some days.
I am guilty as charged for…
- Using my smartphone at the dinner table at a restaurant
- As soon as we get in the car to go somewhere, looking up directions turns into checking a message from someone
- Looking at just one more message and realizing 30 minutes has gone by and the kids still aren’t in bed
- Having my kids and husband tell me I spend too much time on my phone
- Sleeping with my phone under my pillow, turning off the alarm and getting immediately sucked into the endless notifications from the night before.
I’ve also seen many wives come to us for help saying “He comes home from the fire station and goes straight to his video games. Or has his head in his phone. I know he needs to decompress but how long is enough time? I need to talk to him too. It’s driving a wedge between us.”
So how do you balance it? How do you make the most of the amazing connections that happen over social media (the primary way we have built a community of thousands of fire wives by the way) without letting it invade your life and especially impact your marriage?
First of all this is not just about social media. My kids spend a TON of time on YouTube watching Minecraft or silly prank videos. There are husbands who are more into the video game version of social media. Modern Warfare or whatever it’s called when you are on headsets talking to people around the world as you virtually play war together. Oh and those games. My apologies to everyone who tries to invite me to those. I am anti-game. Farm Saga. Candy Crush. Whatever. I’m way too addicted to building online friendships to give up time for a game. Oh and the intellectual book people. Your device is now the world’s largest online library. Research never ends!
Whatever your personality type, there is an app waiting to consume your hours right at your finger tips. Something new to discover. Another newsfeed item to digest. Another notification to check. Your bank account. Twitter. An email. A Facebook notification. Oh and even work. That virtual office app tells you whenever your boss posts a new file. And how can I forget those sales apps. Look at this new Groupon in your area. Don’t forget to feed your kitten at the Virtual Vet Shop.
First, understand the environment you are dealing with…..
There is an increased expectation of response times in our culture due to things like live chat customer support and Amazon next day delivery and that little “green dot” that indicates that you are online (or at least your computer is online). My husband and I are on two different planets with this topic. I am eager to respond and respond and respond faster and faster. Productivity is one of my love languages. He on the other hand works a job as a firefighter where the most important notification he needs to listen for is the tones signaling a fire call. Checking email is just not high on his priority list and he got annoyed when he’d get an email from our church group with an expectation to reply the same day.
When we did we move into a world that expected immediate response anyhow? It sort of just crept up on us. There are only a few people in my life who get immediate response from me 24/7. And 80% of those people live under my roof. My personal cell phone number is a guarded secret I only share with a few people so that I can keep sacred the text message. The one “ding ding” I always look at immediately. And it’s not for everyone.
The other thing you must understand about this environment we live in is this: Facebook is designed to be addictive.
And Twitter and Instagram and all of those games. Because the more people that come to them and stay there, the more money they make from advertising and the more successful they are. It’s a trap!! It’s a marketing trap!! They want to keep you “hungry” to consume the next post, the next chat, and the next and the next and the next! It’s like the never ending newspaper that you could read forever.
They scour your personal preferences in the trail you blaze all across the internet. It’s a highly tuned business to help companies find you, their needle in a haystack that wants to buy their product. Want to hear a scary example from just yesterday? My husband and I had a brief side conversation about possibly looking for a different house. I did some random Zillow searches just to investigate and the next day, he had a suggested house pop up in his facebook feed! It was practically screaming at him “Hey! Your wife was looking at real estate and we know that you have previously searched for a home in this zip code so we want to show you this great 4BR house!”
No addiction is a good thing. None. Not even addiction to happiness. So be wary of this addiction to social media. The need to read the “next new message”.
This is the world we’re living in people. Noisy. Loud. Information overload. So how do you deal with it without wrecking your in person relationships?
How to Adapt: Hold tight to your values and guard your time.
Is your marriage and your family the most important part of your life? Of course!
Is it ok to have a break and a social life? Absolutely!
But marriage and family first. And as much as we try, we really can’t split our brains to be in two places. Oh it’s now possible for our body to be physically with our families but our brains to be focused on a message (or a million messages) carrying on with the Bzzz Bzzz of our phones.
Be true to that. And don’t be a slave to the Bzzz Bzzzz notifcation signal on your phone.
Your first obligation is to the people you are face to face with each day. And before smartphones and social media, many of us were simply overwhelmed just trying to do that job well enough! How in the world do we think we can handle it while we have a million social media conversations going on at the same time?
You know I am not anti-technology, anti-phone nor anti-social media. It’s a GLORIOUS thing that has brought so much good to the world. But it’s only meant to add convenience and entertainment, not to overshadow the the most important parts of your life. Looking into your husband’s eyes. Holding his hand. Talking about his deepest desires in life. Working through a stressful work issue together. Snuggling in bed.
If you and your spouse are doing something together online, then that could be a good thing that keeps you connected. We love to encourage that around here. Fun texts. Private text shares for spouses eyes only. Obsessively watching a series together on Netflix. (Obsessing is usually never good but if you ever got caught up in Breaking Bad or a series like that you know what I mean here.) The key is this: You agree together that it’s important for the two of you and you want it to be part of your life.
Youtube, iPads, SmartPhones are really “personalized TV’ and no different than when I was a child and might spend 4 hours engaged in Saturday morning cartoons. And it’s no doubt that putting an iPad in our daughters hands when she was only 2 drastically accelerated her ability to read. There is good stuff here. Just recognize when it crosses that line from good to interference….
Here are some clues for how to recognize it may be a problem in your life…..
- You realize you just spent 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours surfing Facebook (or insert your favorite app) and feel like you got nothing accomplished
- People in your life are telling you that you spend too much time on your phone
- You have anxietous feelings when you don’t have your phone with you
- Whenever there is a spare downtime, the first thing you do is look at your phone.
- You spend evenings together with your spouse but both of you are looking at your own devices
- You run into a situation where you need support and you have no one physically in your life to help (all your friends are online)
- You find yourself acting like a different person than your true self online
- You have the opportunity to connect in person with friends you talk to online and you don’t want to. (What are you hiding?)
- You have the chance to do something amazing outdoors where there won’t be connectivity and your first thought is to tell your online friends you’ll be gone
- You become forgetful with things that need to be done around your household because you are bombarded with too many messages
- Your phone or game are the first thing you turn to when you wake up, come home, etc.
Here’s the bottom line. Don’t be that wife mentioned in the Wifey Wednesday blog post. Don’t be her! Don’t do it in the name of ministry or friendship or any other “good deed” you think you are performing. Not when it comes at the expense of your husband or your family.
You know I adore and love the way God has used this medium to connect so many fire wives in friendship here in our Fire Wife Sisterhood. But that cannot become what we worship and live for. It should only be a support, an added entertainment.
It’s time for an accountability check in. Do you find yourself spending too much time on your phone / tablet / computer? Tell us in the comments how you overcome this.
Want to focus more on your marriage?
Marriage on Fire will take you through a 6 week video series and give you the steps you need to take an intentional focus on the love of your life. This program is self paced, includes weekly challenges, extra bonuses and private online communities.
This is designed to be a journey to take together that strengthens your marriage whether you are a rookie or “experienced” at marriage. It’s designed especially for first responders, by a firefighter and his wife who have been through both the hot sparks and the tough fires of marriage and have brought healing and growth to a community of fire families.
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