Stumble into any restaurant or bar in one of China’s big cities, and one can almost always find at least one irredeemably awkward couple who appear to be on the date from hell. Telltale signs include: earphones plugged in, eyes glued to their respective mobile phone screens, and the two sitting across from each other in deafening silence. In news that will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who has seen this familiar sight, China Daily has reported that smartphones are driving Chinese families apart.
The report is based on a study conducted by the Chinese magazine Marriage and Family, which attracted 13,00 responses as it surveyed the divisive effect of obsessive mobile phone use on marriage in China.
We already knew that mobile phones could cost us a fortune, start a dangerous impromptu pyrotechnics display, cause erectile dysfunction, and even prove deadly. Now it seems that Chinese couples have to ditch their precious phones if they want to save their marriage.
The survey found that almost half of the couples admitted to using their smartphone during free time with their partner. These couples on the whole tended to be less happy than those who still embrace the seemingly esoteric art of face-to-face communication.
A startling 60 percent of married respondents felt threatened by the “intrusion from the electronic rival in the relationship.”
Apparently it is not only the parents’ relationship which is stifled by phone use. Over one-third of parents let their child play on their phone to keep them occupied, likely adding to the sense of loneliness and isolation forced by the one-child policy.
Zhen Yan, director of the China Marriage and Family Study Society, warns that mobile phone addiction poses a threat to the country’s overall family happiness index; while Wang Jun, a Beijing marriage consultant, has a message for couples content with staring at a screen rather than talking with their partner: “It is a mistake if people think being in the same room (playing with their separate devices) is the same as being together.”
It would come as no surprise if mobile phone addiction was indeed contributing to China’s growing divorce rate; especially when some parents are found to be neglecting their children just for the sake of beating their Angry Birds high score.
By Liam Bourke