Your Phone is a Terrible Wingman

by: Zach Stafford

I often find myself complaining about the status of dating for 20-somethings. I blame that attitude on my parents.

Growing up, I heard stories from older folks that when they were my age, they were going on romantic dates every weekend. From the sound of their tales, courtship was alive and well for anyone who experienced puberty prior to the 1990s. Today, companionship seems to be the last thing 20-somethings are looking for on an evening out.

The other night, I sat in a bar and watched the people around me. After a while, I began to notice the same light on everyone’s face. It wasn’t from the fixtures above—it was the light from their phones. Nobody was paying attention to anyone outside of his or her immediate friends or phone.

Noticing this, I began to wonder: If we are all on our phones while we are supposed to be meeting new people, then are our phones blocking us from finding someone? Perhaps.

Over the years, society has developed social cues to communicate don’t talk to me. Staring at a phone is one of the most popular (and most overused). So if being on your phone communicates don’t approach me to potential dates, then some of us may be in trouble if we ever hope to meet right person.

According to a recent study in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, during a single day an average person will check his or her phone about 34 times out of habit. The checks last about 30 seconds, often without the user even realizing it’s happened. These checks happen within 10 minutes of one another, meaning you could be sending a don’t talk to me signal every 10 minutes while out trying to find a date. Yikes!

As phones become an even greater part of our lives, we are seeing other side effects beyond dating droughts. The Los Angeles Times recently profiled the arrival of nomophobia, the fear of being without your phone.

This has become such a serious problem that psychologist Elizabeth Warren at Morningside Recovery Center in California has started to address the problem in group therapy sessions. To start the treatment, participants have to go 10 days without their phones, among other devices.

Yes, 10 days. Just imagine that for a second … and now check your iPhone 5.

The newest Apple gadget was released last week, breaking all kinds of sales records. Customers waited in lines for days get their own to take home, and one man reportedly paid $1,500 to have someone wait in line to buy him the new smartphone.

When was the last time you met someone and said, “Hey, I’d really like to spend $1,500 on you?” Right.

Allow me to make one last point: By 2016, the world population will reach 7 billion, the U.N. projects. That same year, Cisco Systems anticipates more than 10 billion devices (phones, tablets, etc.) will drive mobile data. You know what that means?! In four years, it will officially be easier to get a phone than a date.

Lucky us. Now check your phone. Again.

Note: This piece was originally published in the Chicago Red Eye and republished with permission. You can find the original here.

Zach Stafford is a Tennessee writer currently living in Chicago. His work has appeared at places such as: USAToday, Thought Catalog, The New Gay, and Bookforum. Outside of writing and watching Ally McBeal on Netflix, Zach is in the process of applying to PhD programs in the field of Cultural Geography & Urbanization. Also, Zach is the Production Assistant and a Contributor to the web series, which explores the lives of effeminate gay men in America. Follow him on Twitter @zachstafford.

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5 responses to “Your Phone is a Terrible Wingman

  1. Haha! Another amazing post from one Zach Stafford. I’ve never been a fan of phones. I still have a stupid phone (as opposed to a smart one) which-gasp!-flips open and-ohthehorror!-doesn’t connect to the internet. That said, I can sort of understand that people might just want to give off that look-at-me-being-so-occupied-and-popular-on-the-mobile vibe, even if it ain’t that effective.
    Final note: was dating really that much better in the past? Probably not. If I wanted to go back to the days when white knights in shining armor strutted their stuff, objectified women, casually gestured at their crotches, and generally made me feel forced into claustrophobia, I’d visit Medieval Times in Shaumburg.

  2. Very interesting article. I frequent a bar in my neighborhood (usually just to get something to eat) and I’m never approached for conversation. I just assumed everyone was busy. Never even thought that it may be because of the Kindle App on my phone.

  3. Judy, don’t give me that act of “men should approach women more” non-sense. We’re in an age where people are equals, should be equals, so everyone should do their part.

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