“Twitter! Again!” My boyfriend looks at me from across our kitchen table as I have my phone in my hand, chin to my chest, thumb scrolling. “You’re always looking at bloody Twitter!”
He says it with a playful exasperation but I think the frustration is starting to outweigh the friendly tone. He doesn’t use any social media platforms at all whereas I use Twitter so much I’m surprised I don’t see a small blue bird in my dreams. Day or night, without even thinking, I’m refreshing my feed, waiting for the dopamine to hit, trying to figure out what people are talking about. Sometimes I’ll be doing it before I’ve even noticed, maybe mid-film or mid-conversation as he cooks dinner. “Why are you on Twitter now”, he sighs. In bed, in the evenings, he catches me out again. As we go round Sainsbury’s on a Saturday morning he’s got me again. As we walk to the park together: “What on earth is on that thing?”
Of course, his frustration isn’t really about what I’m doing. It’s about what I’m not doing. If I’m on Twitter, then my head is somewhere else. I’m reading someone else’s thoughts, I’m laughing at someone else’s joke, I’m getting irate at someone else’s opinion. So how can I be with him – really, fully, 100% with him – if I’m also with the 2,850 people I follow? And I get it. It’s rude and it’s disrespectful and it doesn’t make him feel great. Is he not interesting or funny or angry enough? Of course he is. He’s all those things and more. So why don’t I put down my phone and start listening, properly?
This is the constant conversation I have with myself. I remind myself that we’re both so busy and I spend enough time without him, so during the time we do share, I really don’t need to invite in the internet along too. Eventually, I’ve started to realise I need to make considered changes. Now I endeavour to leave my phone in the spare room during the weekend. For 48 hours, it’s out the way, unable to grab my attention and leave him feeling rejected. We’ve also recently made a rule that we won’t look at our phones after 9.30pm. These self-imposed sanctions are really just marked relationship boundaries: this is what he’ll tolerate, this is what I’ll do to make him not feel rejected. Deal.