Stop texting in bed, or the iPhone gets it

December 9, 2014 Originally published on SFGate

Girlfriend texting in bed? Boyfriend won’t stop Instagramming in lieu of pillow talk? Spouse habitually checking Twitter and Facebook instead of tenderly caressing your fair and scintillating flesh? You are not alone.

Or rather, you sort of are, because that’s how it feels, because “your goddamn device is ruining our relationship/sex life/quality time” is exactly what increasing numbers of distraught lovers are complaining about, because psychologists have even coined a (quite awful, please do not spread) word for it – “phubbing” – in which someone feels snubbed by another’s phone usage (get it?) in any kind of social setting, much to everyone’s lonely, frustrated, hey-what-about-me grumpiness.

Is this you? Are you familiar with this fiery bedchamber dispute

? Has the “no smart phones in bed!” thing become serious enough that it’s already led, in turns, to feelings of isolation, jealously, abandonment, heavy sighing and honey will you please put your goddamn phone down for one second while I’m crawling all over you, naked?

It might be a problem. There appears to be some research. There is certainly some extant evidence. It is, some say, yet another way our modern technology is both ruining and empowering our lives. What’s a tech obsessed, social media-saturated culture to do?

As Nick Bilton points out over at the NYT, there are options, none of them very pleasing: You can demand a “tech free zone” in your home. You can declare your bedroom off-limits to all gadgetry. You can even go totally first-world WTF-is-wrong-with-you ridiculous, and actually put up high-tech wallpaper that blocks WiFi signals, which is just a little insane and what about the porn and the Pandora and the live stream of Peter Pan Live?

Exactly. Good luck with any of that. Here’s the thing: Short of becoming Amish, joining a creepy Mormon cult, or partnering with a Real Doll, there is no longer any way to keep tech out of the bedroom. Or the living room, the bathroom, the refrigerator, the couch and the garden hose and even the doorbell itself.

Every cafe everywhere

Every cafe everywhere

Have you not heard? We’re steeped in the Internet of Things, baby, an app-enabled, wireless-everything age in which all your stuff is fast becoming gadgetized, Blutoothed, sensor-activated and ready, in an instant, to post its pointlessly annoying data to any of 10,000 social media/tracking sites.

The Internet of Things! Not happening soon; happening right now. Name your item: Light bulb, stereo, drapes, space heater, air conditioner, smoke detector, toilet, video monitor, humidifier, robot vacuum, microwave and the fridge and the coffee maker et al – all already controllable via an app, or (very soon) the Apple Watch.

Quaint! Charming! Doesn't really exist and never really did!

Quaint! Charming! Doesn’t really exist. Did it ever?

Of course, a wireless stove and a robot lawnmower aren’t the problem, are they? This is about where the magic happens: the bedroom. But of course, there’s already a “smart bed,” such as the Sleep Number, which somehow let’s you “track and optimize your sleep with SleepIQ technology” which is complete nonsense but who cares because “SleepIQ provides you with information that empowers you to achieve your best possible sleep.”

Whoa! Empowered sleep? Who doesn’t want that? Kick that slumber’s ass! Own that REM state, dude! Who’s your daddy now, cozy liminal state! And so on.

Still not intimate enough? How about an app-controlled, Bluetooth-enabled vibrator? And don’t forget, the new Apple Watch’s haptic feedback sensor thingy will let you transmit your actual heartbeat to anyone you like.

But perhaps this is getting off track. Because the question isn’t about the unchecked proliferation of wireless household gadgets per se, or even bedroom gizmos. That much is already moot, and unstoppable.

It’s about intimacy; about how, when someone is poking around on social media in the bedroom, they’re actually sorta-kinda spending semi-quality time with someone else, or a thousand someones, scattered and emotionally fragmented, just a little, just enough for the other partner to feel a little neglected, disconnected. Just enough to make you realize that, while our gadgets are advancing at lightning speed, our ability to adapt to the endless, unexpected emotional psychodramas they inspire is still lagging, baffled and rightly suspicious, far behind.

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Mark Morford

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