Practical ways to have a healthy relationship with technology

January 26,2021

Did you know that the average person spends nearly 11 hours per day on some sort of media device? Or that we get 63 notifications on average per day? 

I know, I know, you’ve heard about how bad technology is a million times already. 

People love to beat up on technology. I’ve definitely written my fair share of emails and social posts about how harmful cell phones can be!

But today, I want to get a little more nuanced and talk about how to use technology to facilitate presence.

First, let’s talk about…

Practical ways to have a healthy relationship with technology

#1: Get clear on when you do want to zone out

Earlier this month, I mentioned the example of watching TV together – how couples usually end up both on their phones instead of watching the show they had intended to watch together, then getting annoyed at each other for not paying attention! 

Xander and I are trying to be more intentional about the kind of relationship we want to have with technology in the moment. Sometimes we want to just zone out. Sometimes we want to watch a show together, and actually feel a sense of closeness. We just make sure to share those intentions with each other!

It’s OK to want time to zone out. You just need to be clear about it. Say to your partner, “I need a few minutes right now to just get lost in my phone, OK?” Or, “I’d love to have your undivided attention during dinner tonight. Can we both put our phones in the other room?”

#2: Delete apps that don’t serve you 

Tell me if you can relate to this… Xander has been obsessively checking the news for the last few months. He’ll find himself constantly refreshing the same apps over and over again, even when there isn’t anything new going on! 

He recently realized just how bad it has been for his mental health, so he decided to delete all the news apps off of his phone. He still has other ways he can check the news, but taking the apps off of his phone got rid of the obsessive scrolling and refreshing.

#3: Move apps around

I can be an obsessive checker myself! One simple change I made was to move apps that I want to be careful about off of my home screen. 

I found that having to make an active effort to search for that app made me much less likely to open it. 

Again, it’s a simple trick that can have a surprisingly big impact!

#4: Turn off your notifications

You really don’t need a loud ding every time Madewell emails you about their latest sock sale. Turn all those notifications off! 

#5: Set a timer for how long you’re going to engage

It’s scary how much time can pass when you’re watching YouTube videos or scrolling through Instagram. 

Instead of getting swept into the rabbit hole of the internet, try setting a timer for yourself for how much time you want to spend engaging with technology. 

Once the timer goes off, it’s time to move on. 

If you don’t have the willpower to stop yourself, you can use phone blocking apps to disable your phone. 

#6: Schedule “do not disturb” times

Some phones give you the option to schedule “do not disturb” times, to prevent messages from coming through and distracting you. Taking a few minutes to set up a schedule can have an enormous impact!

#7: Switch your phone to grayscale

This makes your phone shockingly boring! It’s much harder to get lost scrolling when your phone is in black and white mode. 

#8: Follow social accounts that make you feel good! 

Every few months, I go through the accounts that I follow on social, and ask myself, “Does this account regularly make me feel good?” I’m brutal about unfollowing! 

Our phones and computers aren’t all bad! They can actually contribute to our personal well-being and to our relationships. So next, let’s move into…

Practical ways technology can help your relationship 

#1: Follow sex and relationship accounts on social media

Look for couples therapists and sex educators who share practical tips. (May we suggest our account?!

#2: Flirt over text

Send your partner saucy texts or photos to get them in the mood for later. Rehash your favorite sexual memories together. Or send them compliments!

#3: Talk about the boring or transactional stuff over text only

You can go the opposite direction and use technology to talk about the unsexy aspects of a relationship. 

For example, you can make a little “rule” that you’re only allowed to talk about household chores over text. 

This can help preserve the face-to-face energy between the two of you!

#4: Make each other laugh

There’s nothing sexier and more bonding than making each other laugh! Send each other funny memes or videos using your phones! 

#5: Initiate conversations over text or email that you may not have had the courage to initiate otherwise

For example, if you and your partner had a big fight and you’re still feeling tender, you may find it easier to share how you’re feeling in an email. 

#6: Initiate sex over text or email

This is a great tip for shy people!

#7: Champion your partner on your social media accounts

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fact that it’s such a cultural norm to complain about relationships when we talk about them publicly. Before I unfollowed a bunch of social accounts, my entire feed was just dumb memes about how hard relationships are and how annoying your partner is. 

I want to encourage you to do the exact opposite and talk positively about your partner on social! Post cute pictures or stories of your partner. 

I’m not saying you need to present a fake, 100% rosy picture of your relationship. But it can be really nice to be your partner’s fan on social instead of contributing to this cultural tearing-down of relationships. 

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HI THERE!

I'm Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and writer specializing in helping you have more fun in the bedroom.

I have bachelor’s degrees in human sexuality and sociology from Brown University, and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. I’m also a licensed psychotherapist. I’ve been working in the sex therapy field since 2002 and have been featured by The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, and many more.

If you’re interested in improving your sex life, you can work with me via my online courses or personal coaching sessions. I look forward to supporting you in creating the sex life you’ve always wanted!