What if our virtual hyper connection completely disconnected us from reality and love? By Mathilde Effosse.
There are 7.6 billion people on Earth, more than 5 have a mobile phone and 3 use social networks via a mobile app on a daily basis. Phone grafted to our hand, we check Instagram while we walk, we swipe in the bus, we wait for an answer on Whatsapp. Eyes lost in the pixels, we are reachable 24/7… What if our online life prevented us from being happy in love?
The online discussion trap
Even before we’re officially in a relationship, our cell phone can be a threat. Jay Shetty, speaker, columnist and vlogueur whose videos combine over a billion views, sighs: “We text, we Snapchat and we sext. We private message to meet up, small talk for an hour, only to return home and small talk via text. We want the façade of a relationship, without the work of a relationship. We want that hand holding without the eye contact, we want to celebrate the anniversaries without the 365 days that lead up to them. You want the happily ever after without the effort in the here and now. »
In addition to moving us away from the real depth of a relationship, our smartphone can lead us into a fictional romance. Lauren Frances, love coach, writer and seminar organizer, advises us to beware of men who flood us with text messages: “When we exchange many messages, we enter a kind of virtual relationship that gives us the impression that the man is won over and wants to be with us. But no! A relationship unfolds with time and reality, not by texting. An man who wants to be with you will send few messages, and it will be to see you.” “The Flirt Fairy”, advisor to Hollywood’s biggest stars, recommends doing the same for dating sites and apps: “Meet in person as soon as possible. Or at least talk on the phone. We need to see each other, spend time together to find out if we’re right for each other. Having nice discussions, discovering common points through the Internet, that’s good. But it doesn’t mean anything about the love compatibility we can share.”
Prescription 2.0 : If you love texting, you don’t have to stop. But make face-to-face conversations a priority, because it’s the only way to make a story work.
In sixty seconds, more than 65,000 photos are posted on Instagram worldwide (Statista Digital Economy Compass, Go-Globe.com, 2018). And over 16 million are hashtaged #CoupleGoals or #RelationshipGoals. Lost in n ocean of couples with wonderful lives, we realize that we never received an XXL bouquet of roses, nor a surprise picnic on the beach. But on social networks, couples are always sublimated… “Comparing your couple to others can lead to depression, says Angélique Gozlan, doctor in psychopathology and psychoanalysis. We tell ourselves that we are less in love, less glamorous… We downgrade it.” To cheer ourselves up, we’re going to want to do the same, to show and prove that we’re happy with our boyfriend, too. But Jay Shetty warns: “When you expose your relationship to everyone, you might start to measure its quality by the way it gets seen online, the number of likes who applaud it. Even if everything goes well in our relationship, social networks can attract negativity, jealousy, envy. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t post anything; you just have to be careful.”
Prescription 2.0 : Remember that the virtual world is not real. Our “couple goals” are moments that belong only to us and bring us closer – without the whole world attending the show.
Loss of confidence
When my grandparents meet, mobile phones don’t existe – there’s only the landline. And my grandfather doesn’t even own one. “We were looking for each other in college, and we would set the next date up during the one we were on at the moment” tells me Mina, my grandmother. That means you had to be sure you wanted to see each other again immediately? “We were sure”, smiles Daddy, my grandfather. If they weren’t, they just wouldn’t have seen each other again. But if something happens before the date… how to tell the other? “If he didn’t come, I would just figure he couldn’t, and I go home, Mina explains. I never thought it was because he didn’t want to come, or because he didn’t want to see me anymore.” Communication was more complicated, yet it seemed much simpler. We loved with a light spirit, because we didn’t play with our own feelings: if we saw each other, if we made these efforts to find each other, it was because we really wanted to.
A couple’s foundations used to be based on reality. We met while keeping our secret garden – and without the permanent possibility of sending (or waiting for) messages. We discovered the other through what he chose to tell us about his past. Today, we Googlize, we Facebook, we Instagram. Ah, our new guy was dating a Natasha? We’ll look for her on the networks, we’ll find photos of their relationship, even if it no longer exists. Because we have access to it. “But we’re not objective either: we make our own opinion which we compare to what he told us,” explains Angélique Gozlan. If we find out Natasha’s a bombshell, we’ll tell ourselves he lied to us. Nothing is objective and rational anymore.”
Prescription 2.0: We listen to each other, we are patient, and we trust each other.
Sunday morning, our boyfriend is tagged in a photo from the day before. He’s at a party, a girl seems close to him. Our reaction? Negative. Immediate. Same thing about comments and likes: who is this girl who left a heart under his profile picture? And why does he like all the pictures of that girl who poses half naked all the time? “The first thing we tell ourself at that moment is: ‘It happened. It’s there, so it’s true.’ But what’s true? Our hasty and unfounded conclusions. “We don’t try to put things back into context, whereas most of the time it is nothing. The immediacy of the virtual world pushes us to react with the same eagerness: we post, we react”, explains Angélique Gozlan. These fantasies also arise when our partner’s eyes are riveted on his screen, and we don’t know what he’s doing: 42% of couples admit to having already argued about something one didn’t want to show the other on his smartphone (Kaspersky Lab, 2018).
Prescription 2.0 : We stop virtual stalking and we communicate. We unfollow our boyfriend on Facebook and we don’t look at who liked his pictures. On Instagram, we never go on the ‘Following’ feed, which shows us the last activities of the people we follow. Not easy, but we will avoid a lot of doubts and stress that only exist in our head…
The disappearance of intimacy
A cell phone on the table at the restaurant. A vibration checked on the couch during a movie. Even in the middle of the night, 41% of French people admit to looking at their screen immediately when they receive a notification (Deloitte, 2017). The outside world invites itself into the bubble of our couple… and we open the door. “We’re together, yet we’re separated. This intrusion can give us the feeling of being abandoned, left out, less important than the notification the other has received,” Angélique Gozlan analyses.
Prescription 2.0: We put our phones down, even if it means putting them on silent and leaving them in another room.
“We are so used to ordering everything online that we forget that what really counts can’t get delivered, Jay Shetty says. You can’t get love in one click. You have to be patient for the big things.” The virtual world goes fast. Not real life. “The habit of living in immediacy pushes us to have ephemeral desires, explains Angélique Gozlan. It’s like society’s always yelling : ‘Do you want something? You can get it right now!’ In our love life, networks reach out to us, ensuring that in two clicks, we meet someone on Tinder – and when we know that in one minute, 990,000 faces are swiped around the world, we tend to believe it a little. It’s so easy, after all, to meet someone, and, at the slightest slip, to go home and just swipe for someone else. If we seek love in this state of mind, we will never find anything but snacks that we will swallow without taking the time to appreciate it, before throwing the packaging behind us. “For a relationship to work, you have to have desires that last over time,” says Angélique Gozlan. You have to wait, sweat, work, if you want to achieve real satisfaction.”
Prescription 2.0 : We ask ourself : what do I really want? Only someone to appear less alone, or to build something stable, lasting?
The loss of the present moment
“Come on, smile! “, we beg our guy during our walk on the beach. But no, on this picture, his eyes are closed, and on this one, we have a double chin. Let’s do it again. He grumbles, he gets tired of posing, and so do we, because we can’t take the picture we want, the one where we look beautiful and happy in a dream setting. By the way, where are we again? By wanting to immortalize the moment, we do not live it. Like the audience of a concert, attending the event through a 10x5cm screen. We’re so busy feeding our online life that we don’t even enjoy it anymore. “We must remember that our relationship is not lived through networks, reminds Jay Shetty. Our relationship goal is not to find and post the next picture, but to live the moment together. The people we spend the best time with are the ones who make us forget about our phone.”
Prescription 2.0 : We look at each other, and we enjoy. The only thing that counts is this moment that we both share and that we will remember much better than through a well-framed photo.
The struggle of moving on
“Social networks bring a new form of attachment: emotional dependence,” continues Angélique Gozlan. You no longer delete your ex from Facebook or Insta, you keep his name in your virtual address book because you want to keep an eye on his life, even if you are no longer a part of it. Because of this masochistic curiosity, we don’t separate anymore. “We never really mourn our past love story, but it is necessary to understand what we need.” And we ignore our own needs: “We cannot build a relationship on a heart that is not repaired. It’s like sticking a bandage on a bandage, on a bandage…”
Prescription 2.0 : Remove our ex from social networks. Come on, cheer up, you can do this. It’s like deleting a browsing history after all. Just because we bought a mat online in January doesn’t mean we want to see the ad on our home page for the next three years.
4 tips to use the networks well, by Angélique Gozlan
- We parameterize. We can’t show everyone everything – our love life is ours alone!
- We take a step back. If we see a picture of our boyfriend at a party, with a girl around, we don’t react right away. We think, recontextualize, and talk to him rather than draw our own conclusions.
- We make reality and subjectivity priorities – our love is real, not something to live through our phone.
- We set rules if we are too dependent: for example, from 9:30 pm, we disconnect and spend the evening together without any distraction.
5 years and 4 months – that’s the average time we spend on social networks during our lives. (BETC, Mediakix and Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016)
55% of French people check their phones more than 10 times a day. (Deloitte, 2017)
Thanks to Mina and Daddy, Angélique Gozlan, Jay Shetty and Lauren Frances for their participation.