Phoney Freedoms

The hidden pressures and pain of always being ‘on’.

You may have seen the image above. It’s popped up on my feeds multiple times In recent weeks and talks about the hidden pressures and pain people face that others may not be aware of. The woman thinks the man isn’t strong enough or doing enough to save her, and the man thinks the woman isn’t doing enough to help save herself. Both can’t see the obstacles each is facing without the other knowing, and only through communicating openly with each other will help them both understand.

After writing and sharing my recent article about bringing our social media into our bedroom, it gave me a chance to talk with my wife about why I wrote it. Understandably, she was upset that I hadn’t talked to her first (I should have) and felt what that what was portrayed was one sided. And she was right.

I explained that my intentions were good and that I missed the times when it was just us (being in our late 30s, we do remember the days before smartphones and social media). I told her that I can feel less important when she’s locked into her phone and that we both had to work on controlling how much we let our devices divide us.

Her response made me realise that I wasn’t seeing her pain and pressures.

Now, as a business owner, husband and father to two kids under four I have a lot on my plate and I do my best to give attention to everything and everyone in my life. It’s fair to say that work consumes a lot of my headspace, and I too am guilty of being too connected to my phone.

The same dopamine hit we get from social media, is the exact same hit I get from an incoming email. The smartphone that has enabled us to work in more flexible ways, is also a sure path to addiction. Despite having all of my phone notifications turned off, it lures me in.

Open email, pull down on the screen, watch the wheel spin, oh new email! Aw, not the one I was waiting for. Wait two minutes, pick up phone, open email, pull down on the screen, watch the wheel spin, argh! No new email. Wait two minutes, pick up phone, open email, pull down on the screen, watch the wheel spin, oh new email! That’s the one I was expecting. Reply. Repeat.

My phone has been great for flexibility and working on the go and allowing me to active all days of the week in my family life. I can control when and where I get work done. However it can also be a curse.

My phone gives me freedom but but when it lures me in I can subconsciously push people away.

It allows my work to be right there in my reach at the office, during my travels, at home, at the dinner table, on the couch, during school drop off and pickup and in my down time. Being quick to respond to business emails at all hours is something I’ve become accustomed to. It can make me less attuned to those close to me and fail to completely understand the pressures in their life. My approach to work made my wife feel, at times, like she couldn’t approach me.

By juggling my work demands, I dropped the ball on something much more important. Being present for my partner and my kids.

What I failed to realise is that my behaviour in being responsive to my business and my relentless vision to build the best life for my family can have the reverse effect. It keeps me from being there for them, wholly, and can blind me from seeing my wife’s intentions for what they were.

While I was feeling pushed away, she was supporting me in ways I didn’t see. She knew I was stressed and had a lot on my plate so didn’t want to burden me with what was burdening her.

She wasn’t pushing me away, she was shielding me from more stress.

I can’t help but wonder if my increasingly addictive behaviour on my device is decreasing my intuition and my ability to read nonverbal cues and real human emotions.

And so now it’s on me to make a conscious change, to hold up my end of the bargain. I’m incredibly fortunate to be married to my best friend and the love of my life. I plan on doing everything to break the grip my phone can have on me and get a better handle on being available and present for my family.