Throughout high school, my friends and I seemed to always blame the fact that “chivalry is dead” on our generation. Specifically, we’d acknowledge the presence of smartphones contributing to how “romance” in the 21st century was essentially depleted. I can remember my friends obsessing over their contact with boys on apps like Instagram and Snapchat, picking apart and analyzing a like on a photo or an unreciprocated snap. I can also remember my mom being puzzled by the nature of relationships in my generation. She told me how in her day, if you liked someone, you called them, you set up a date, and it was as simple as that.
Now I’m not complaining, modern technology has given me the luxury as a student to have a vast amount of available knowledge at the tips of my fingers. I don’t have to go to the library and dig through an encyclopedia to find out when Abraham Lincoln became president, I can type it into google and get the answer in a matter of seconds. I am able to connect with friends in different parts of the country in the same amount of time, I can even video chat with my family when I am homesick with about as much effort as it takes me to blink. But, with all of this amazing technology of the modern world, it is inevitable that there will be negative effects on our society as well.
I recently read an article on the TIME Magazine website by Mandy Oaklander that analyzed the effects of smartphones on modern day relationships of college students. The study performed focused on the “dependency” people within these relationships had on their phones. The negative impacts smartphones had on these relationships were abundantly clear. Feelings of mistrust and uneasiness were blatant within relationships where one or both partners relied heavily on their devices. Many of the partners within the relationships studied felt as if their boyfriend or girlfriend focused more on their smartphones than they did on their relationships. The study reported that some partners even felt “jealous” of their loved one’s relationship and reliance on their devices. And although smartphones have improved much of everyday life to people around the world, researchers believe that there are more unforeseen negative psychological impacts as a result of their growing prevalence in society. The article reports that the growing obsession with smartphone usage worldwide is currently being studied to see possible effects it could have on self image and education.
The study I read about in TIME Magazine made me consider the nature of the research done on the effects of smartphones on millennial relationships. The research could very well be a source of direct causation, more smartphone use equates to more distance, less time, and heavy mistrust between you and your partner. But, could it also be a case of reverse causation? Could unhealthy relationships simply lead to more dependence on smartphones as a sort of “escape route”? Or could there be the presence of a third variable, such as the fact that our values and the nature of relationships have changed as we have modernized and grown as a society. After all, the divorce rates as of 2008 have reached 40% (source), so are smartphones really to blame? Or could they be a contributing factor that aids in this particular statistic growing each day?
No matter what the correlation behind smartphones and failing relationships is, we must learn as a society to adapt and learn to balance the devices in our changing world and the relationships that we must sustain to lead a happy and social life.