The following post was written by: Esther Levy-Chehebar. Esther is a freelance writer pursuing her MFA in creative non-fiction at The New School. She enjoys writing about Pop Culture, Modern Love and just humiliating her husband in general. You can read more of her work on her blog, The Philosophy of Windex, as well as on Manrepeller.com From the start of our courtship, my now husband has always been – for lack of a better phrase – technologically challenged. It’s what drew me to him. Whereas most boys in my millennial generation were hopelessly devoted to their smartphones, Isaac seemed to carry his strictly for “emergencies.” That, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall, one of one album in his music library.
I was a freshman at NYU, and I found his detachment endearing. The first time we spoke, it was at Think Coffee. I hadn’t checked my iPhone once and when I finally did, I discovered that we’d been talking for close to three hours. I anxiously waited for the Amber alert notification to grace my screen. Surely my Jewish mother had collapsed into a pile of exaggerated neurosis and filed a missing person’s report. She did not. Save for a few text messages and a newly invigorated Twitter feed, not much had changed. The world was still spinning and I, better off for not having seen The Fat Jewish’s latest Instagram post. And as one sometimes does when in the initial throes of budding romance, I went offline. Before long, I had deleted my Instagram account and chiefly resorted to Twitter for news headlines on long Subway rides. My friends accepted a common understanding that when I was with Isaac, I was – for the most part – unreachable. Of course, my technological sabbatical - while fulfilling - was short-lived. Eventually, Isaac and I grew comfortable enough with each other to discuss our inconsistent bowel movements. Needless to say, text messages did not go unread over dinner.
Last year, after having been married for three months, I decided to reactivate my Instagram account for “work purposes.” I was starting a blog, and I needed a platform to self-promote. I would only follow influential artists and inspiring quote accounts. I would distance myself from the FOMO inducing photos of contemporaries on vacation, at parties I hadn’t been invited to and dinners I’d been snubbed from. And yet, despite my conscious effort to create a barrier, I would still climb in bed at night to zombie-scroll through pages and pages of photos. Isaac grew frustrated, and annoyed that I refused to accept that it was the blue light that had been disrupting my sleep cycles. He would complain about my “incessant iPhone use,” and I would roll my eyes. I was tired, it had been a long day, and I wanted to thoughtlessly look at the ‘gram while lying down belly up on my bed. Where’s the shame in that? A recent New York Times article begs the question, “Are Gadget-Free Bedrooms the Secret to a Happy Relationship?” In it, senior researcher at the School of Psychology Christina Leggett says, “Engaging in technology separate to a partner while in the presence of them encourages a disconnection rather than a connection.” To many, this may seem like a no-brainer. And yet it is hard for us to accept that something that has proven itself so vital to our existences – essentially, an extension of ourselves – can contribute to the erosion of a relationship. The article cites a Pew survey that found, “25 percent of cellphone users in a relationship believed that their partner was distracted by that person’s cellphone when they were together.” And 8 percent said they argued over the time that their partner spent online. I remain to be convinced that the answer lay in the banishment of all technology from the bedroom. In fact, binge-watching Downtown Abby remains one of the most anticipated – and strangely intimate – activities that Isaac and I do together. But I do think it’d do us good to set some boundaries. Technology opens doors to a plethora of untapped spoils and countless roads to wander down; But what good does it do to embrace the Internet at the mercy of what’s actually in front of you? I’ve invested hours on end in technology. I shop online, participate in social media, and I’d be remiss not to mention that Netflix is my second husband. There have been countless instances where I’ve looked up from a screen to find that three hours have gone by. Never, not once, had that realization delighted me as it did that night in Think Coffee. - Esther Levy-Chehebar