It may come as no surprise, but most of us are glued to our televisions — so much so that we’re less interested in sex.
According to an ongoing paper by two researchers at the University of Delaware and Reed College in Portland, Ore., owning a TV was linked to more than a five per cent reduction rate of sexual activity, Qz reports.
The research (which is yet to be peer-reviewed), looked at the data of more than four million respondents and found 50 per cent of people living in 80 low- and middle-income countries owned televisions. It also found TV owners were 5.7 per cent less likely to have sex that week.
Although the study is a glimpse of what sexual activity in some of these countries can look like, experts say technology itself has changed how we spend quality time with our partners. And with phrases like “Netflix and chill” or even binge-watching shows, we are spending much more time in front of screens.
“I can’t say that these terms and what they imply have ruined our relationships, however, [they have] certainly influenced it in a negative direction,” said California-based psychologist Dr. Debra Mandel. “[We] have truly lost the appreciation for just being in the moment with our partner. It’s fine to binge-watch a show, but you must also spend very high-quality time doing something special with your partner.”
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But Natasha Sharma, a Toronto-based psychotherapist, said it’s rare when one single factor, like a television, can ruin how we relate to other people. “Relationship breakdown usually happens for a variety of reasons combined. That said, technology can certainly have (and has had) a significant impact.”
Are the screens taking over?
From online dating to sexting, technology has changed how we meet, interact and have intimate encounters with others.
“Technology and devices have allowed us to be closer and more easily accessible to one another,” Mandel continued. “When we use that in a positive way it can certainly promote our intimacy.”
But for television, in particular, Sharma said this has been a favourite pastime for couples for ages.
“There’s nothing ‘bad’ about it, but like everything else in life, it has to be consumed in balance,” she explained. “On the one hand, TV can provide a lovely way to connect with your partner, sharing laughs over your favourite shows together, connecting over the experience, and even the benefits that come from cuddling or sitting close to one another.”
On the other hand, she adds, binge-watching can have a long-term impact on our ability to sit still or be patient, while Mandel said it can be distracting.
“Technology has served as a serious distraction, pulling us away from our loved ones and priorities to promote intimacy,” she argued.
Tips to improve one-on-one time
And if you find yourself watching more TV than spending time with your loved one, it may be time to cut down on screen time.
“We have to understand how meaningful it is to come back to just being in the moment with our partner. So make a commitment each day to spend at least 30 minutes with all devices turned off,” Mandel said.
Sharma recommends logging how much time you spend watching TV during the week and even practising turning the TV off — sometimes people just have it on for background noise.
Lastly, ask yourself why you’re spending so many hours in front of a television. “Keep a check as to whether you’re withdrawing from other regular activities in favour of watching TV (e.g. turning down outings to stay home and watch, skipping work, or other),” she continued. “Your life should be a healthy mix and balance of a variety of activities.”