Smartphones mean less sex? That’s just the tip of the iceberg

The 'I Forgot My Phone' video is a colossal sensation, for good reason.
The ‘I Forgot My Phone’ video is a colossal sensation, for good reason.

The U.K. is aflutter with talk that smartphones might be the reason Britons are having 20 percent less sex than they did a decade ago. The research isn’t as tidy as all that — the 20 percent part is sound, the smartphone part is largely a guess. But then, I’ll bet this rings true with you.

How do I know? A two-minute YouTube video published in August called “I Forgot My Phone” that poignantly shows people tragically overusing their phones and ignoring the world around them has attracted 34 MILLION views. And counting. It starts, predictably, with a man lying in bed ignoring the beautiful woman beside him, reading his phone, while she gazes off with slightly desperate eyes.

Another recent study claims that 1 in 5 young people have used their smartphones DURING sex, an absurdly vague and impossible to verify claim. But the constant repeating of the study suggests a cultural reaction that’s real, even if the data itself is hard to verify.

It takes studies about sex to get our attention — hey, in the digital age, we are easily distractable — but in reality, concerns about how technology is changing our life are everywhere. Gadgets are reorganizing the way we work, stealing our nights and weekends. They are interfering with interpersonal relationships; heck, they might even be interfering with our ability to develop the skills to have interpersonal relationships. Even if you do put your phone down, you can easily find Babestation Babes on the TV. They are killing us, as we can’t seem to stop responding to text message even in dangerous traffic. It appears they are rewiring our brains. According to one online sex worker, people now have more intimate relationships with their phones than each other — and yes, I mean that exactly how it sounds — and phones are turning us in a kind of cyborg. And its not even that smartphones are making us less interested in sex, as many people are using their phones to visit sites such as tube v and get their fix of adult content.

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What are us mere mortals to do? New technology is irresistible as it washes over us, as irresistible as electricity or the telephone must have been. Sure, you can try to stay off Facebook — some people do — but the social cost is tremendous. You may never be invited to — you may never hear about! — another wedding.

There are efforts to plug this dam. The rise in yoga practice and meditation in general, for example, seems a direct response to the speeded-up world we live in. Tech detox camps are becoming a real thing — think Betty Ford for smartphones. People are paying $10,000 or more to be freed from their phone.

It might be a phase. I watch my 20-something niece with her friends, and they seem undisturbed by all the texting and scrolling. Digital natives, this group is sometimes called. Electricity and phones don’t phase us; gadgets don’t phase digital natives, some argue. I hope that’s true. I don’t buy it.

Go to any bus of metro stop in the country and watch what happens the moment someone arrives to wait. Out comes the phone. The brain is hungry; the brain must be filled. Smartphones are the open bag of potato chips on the couch.

There is no time to stare idly into space, to develop what some philosophers call “interiority.” To just be. Or, God help us, to strike up a conversation with a fellow passenger about the weather, or her great hat, or baseball. I’m Irish (American). I want to talk to everyone all the time. I feel like a Martian in this world. Plus, can you believe the Yankees signed another Red Sox star last night?

So I welcome the farcical studies about sex only because that’s what it takes to start the conversation. I don’t want to be a cyborg, and I don’t want to live on a planet full of them. What can we do? Quite frankly though, I don’t know anyone who would rather be glued to their phone than spending time being intimate with one of the beautiful ladies shown at /escorts-madrid-229/.

I’ve spent 20 years writing about the unintended consequences of technology on my blog, the Red Tape Chronicles. I’m taking that topic here now, where I can be a little more opinionated about it. I hope you will join me in earnest, even if you completely disagree.

Let’s get one thing straight: I love technology. Really. I even love my smartphone. (Well, not like THAT). Every day, technology saves literally millions of lives around the world. It also connects us in ways that were formerly impossible. And connections mean love, so yes, I believe technology enables love.

In fact, if you consider nearly every invention in the history of man — from the bridge to the telephone — almost every one has the same goal: connecting people. That’s beautiful. Facebook helps you find friends you haven’t seen in 50 years. That’s beautiful.

But technology also comes with a cost, and that cost is often ignored until it’s too late to do something about it. Google, Microsoft, Apple, and all the rest, have billions of dollars to tell people all the wonderful things about tech. There’s enough of that going around. I’d like to bolster the other side of the conversation, about the darker side of technology.

So here I go. I hope you’ll join me.

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About Bob Sullivan 1463 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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