I have to start this by saying I’m a social anomaly, I really hate when people use their phones in company. Most people tend to agree with me verbally, but usually this is said while their phone is sitting on a table in front of them, or worse still in their hand. We all say that it is rude, but most people carry around with them in their day-to-day the constant distraction of chats with someone else. Now that I’ve outed myself as completely biased on this topic I want to ask some questions about personal space, polyamory, and phones/communication.
In the mono dating world people swipe and Whatsapp their way into dates, fucks, and relationships. There is the scouting stage, the ‘have you seen this meme/cat/documentary’ bit, the laughing at each others finely crafted personal CVs, there may be dicks, and there may be tits. All the while there are beeps, butterflies, and the constant checking of a phone. It’s fun, I’ve been there, I’ve definitely been more addicted to the giddy thrill of it than the actual person I was messaging. The aim is that the person is more impressive than the attention, and that things progress beyond this point.
In mono land dating eventually stops, but what if you are poly? There are many permutations of what your version of poly may look like, you may live with one partner but not another, you may live alone and date several people, but unless you live with all of your partners there there will always be the desire/expectation to keep in constant contact with partners. Added to this is the seeking aspect of poly, the world of dating new people isn’t closed like it is to mono people, so not only is there the time taken up messaging partners, there is the effort put into looking for and making connections with new people. To me that seems like a whole lot of digital time logged that just isn’t spoken about in the poly world.
I don’t want to come across as a phone hating curmudgeon, but I want to look at what is accepted as part of the choice to be poly, see am I okay with it, and see are there any ways around it. What is so wrong with phone use? Everyone does it, am I just misplacing poly baggage and calling it an aversion to tech saturation?
I was having a discussion yesterday with friends about kids and tablets and phones. They couldn’t see the difference between watching tv and watching Netflix on a tablet. My argument was about accessibility and personal space. There is a difference between a box attached to a wall and a device you carry around. If the opportunity is always there to choose the easy thing, the entertainment, then we lose our natural entitlement to space. We opt out of the times spent alone taking a shit, queuing, sitting in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil. These down times are integral to our mental health, we need to exhale into those moments of being alone, and be okay with ourselves. As a generation we fill those times with Twitter, selfies, and digital noise. I also think that specifically as poly people we fill those moments with constant communication or date seeking. We have lost the art of being lonely. Poly rhetoric talks of finding people to fit in with the different aspects of ourselves, well what about our own relationship with ourselves, shouldn’t that be a huge part of the poly learning process?
How can this minefield be negotiated? I have felt like I was dictating poly rules when I’ve spoken about this with my partner at the beginning. I was afraid that I was hiding from anxiety about him showing attention to someone else, and labeling it as phone intolerance. Part of me was, I was stepping out on my poly Bambi legs, but mostly it was about respecting the time that we were consenting to spend together. It was about making an active choice to have phone time, and an active choice to have quality couple time. It is a dance we have negotiated over time, he has been incredibly understanding but also firm on what he felt was an infringement on his relationship. There have been wiggles in that negotiation, there have been painful fuck ups, but there is always the intention not to hurt each other(or metas), or take each other for granted.
Currently I feel like I’m at a point of digital fatigue, I spent years selling online, doing marketing for various businesses on social media, and I spent about 3 years single on dating sites doing the same silly dance over and over. I know I’m burnt out with putting my Photoshopped best foot forward, and I have retreated away from a world that is so edited that it feels inauthentic. In that retreat I feel like I’ve locked my own poly chastity belt. I live in a small town in a small country, the likelihood of me meeting someone in real life who is my shade of poly/queer/feminist/artist are realistically slim to none, yet I can’t muster any enthusiasm for the dating game. This writer gets writer’s block as soon as I even think of message courting. Rather than force it I’ve just accepted it as part of who I am, or more accurately who I am right now. This may change, but it seems a waste of time, other people’s, and energy, my own, trying to force online banter when I feel spiritually allergic to it.
So here’s this poly phone-phobic lady asking am I alone? I suppose just like taking a shit in peace without distracting myself with Facebook, I’ll have to be okay with being alone in this opinion.