Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life

Is technology killing romance?

Last week a friend and I went out to dinner at a local restaurant we both love. Set on the banks of a beautiful river, it’s the perfect setting for a romantic meal. In the summer you can sit out on the terrace and watch the swans swimming past but, this being the north west of England in March, we opted to sit inside.

We were fortunate enough to get the last table near the windows and ordered a pre-dinner drink. Once it came and I’d had a first delicious sip I started to look around and take stock of the other diners. I was not being nosy, you understand, just doing what all writers do. Finding lovely settings for our stories is part of the fun of writing and although I have used this restaurant before, I am not averse to using it – and the people who go there – again,

To my right was a young couple in their late twenties – perfect! I watched them carefully out of the corner of my eye, not wanting to intrude but hoping to get a glimpse into what made their relationship special. A snippet of conversation would have been wonderful but they didn’t say a word to one another. They were far too busy to chat. The young lady had brought along her iPad and was swishing through the screens at a rate of knots while the young man was surfing the net on his smart phone. They never made eye contact, didn’t even manage a smile for one another, so I gave up, convinced they were the exception.

I glanced to my left, at another couple, slightly older. They were both chatting on their phones, oblivious to their companion. In fact of the dozen or so tables being used that night there was only one couple who were enjoying each other’s company. They were in their seventies and the lady, beautifully dressed and made up, was flirting outrageously, delicately running her foot up her companion’s leg! I felt like going across and giving her a high-five only it would have spoiled the moment – and the mood!–for both of them.

I would love to think that this was a one-off, but it wasn’t. Far too often I see couples chatting animatedly on their phones and ignoring each other. Is technology killing romance? I think it’s harming it, certainly, or at least the way people use it is causing a great deal of damage, but what do you think? Would you take your iPad to dinner? Would you use it? I’d love to hear your views.

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19 thoughts on “Is technology killing romance?”

  1. While I think using your phone at the dinner table is a complete no-no (if you have to – excuse yourself and go outside), I have to admit checking emails on my phone while out to dinner with my husband. Not during romantic meals of course, but when we’re out for a casual supper. (After
    more than 25 years together, do I get a pass? I only check once and never reply. My excuse is that I’m always looking for emails from my children who are travelling a lot at the moment. Sometimes I think it would have been easier not to worry when there weren’t phones or emails.) Which reminds me- I often go for walks with my husband and that tends to be the time that we really talk- or when we are in the car on a long journey. (I have to admit it is the best time for picking his brains when it comes to medical scenes!)

    I love the description btw of the woman trailing her toe up her companion’s leg- she sounds like the kind of woman who would be great company- male or female. I’m betting she has a sense of humour.

  2. Dear Jennifer Taylor (so lovely to see you blogging)
    I have seen the same thing out here in California. What worries me the most are the mommies who don’t give their kids any attention because all of their interest seems to be in their phone. It breaks my heart to see little kids marginalized off to the edges of their mommy instead of being the center of their life – the light of their life. This doesn’t bode well for generations of well adjusted adults, does it?

    Recently, I read a blog by a lady who was giving advice to daters – don’t text regrets or last minute changes – pick up the phone and call. Speak to each other for crying out loud!

    I think the Internet and cyberspace are the new addictions. There are many days when i feel I need to go to rehab for it myself! (see – I check my list of blogs that I must read and comment at before I do any writing – it sucks time from productive days.)

    You’ve hit a hot topic, Jennifer!

  3. I think iPads, smartphones etc. kill romance and kill friendships. I wouldn’t bother with a friend who checked her/his emails and talked on the phone when I am with her/him.

  4. It drives me nuts watching people chatting on the phone, checking their: iPhones, iPads and iPods when they are out. What are they thinking? Why are they bothering to go out and eat together if they are not focusing on each other and don’t get me started on about moms, or dads too busy to pay attention to their kiddos. Grrr…
    Hit a hot topic!

  5. Yes it’s ironic, isn’t it, that these were the things that were supposed to be keeping us in contact with each other! When I was a child, the one place where books weren’t welcome was the dinner table, and chatting on the phone seems even worse! So sad to see such a lot of people doing it these days.

  6. Jennifer, this is so true! And it’s not just romance that it’s killing! Just the other day I looked in the window of a restaurant and there was a family at a table – two kids on their little gameboy players, dad on the phone and mum kind of twiddling her thumbs! I think this potable technology is wonderful but we have a hard time keeping it in the “box” as a tool – instead it’s turning us into the tools!

    I struggle to be polite in a situation when I’m talking to someone and they suddenly switch off to give all their attention to the little oblong in their hand. Why is someone who isn’t even present more important than the person who is actually THERE?

  7. Jennifer, I agree! We have a ‘phone-free’ dinner table. I also have noted the mummies on phones at the park and have been saddened by that. So what does it say about us? Perhaps we’re getting old!

  8. OOps pushed the wrong button…what I was going to say was I think it is important that people give others their attention when they are with them but not sure this generation has quite ‘got’ that. I expect a swing back eventually.

  9. I am so glad I’m not the only one who finds other people using phones etc when I’m out a real pain in the proverbial. Although I always take my phone with me, I just have it there for emergencies. To my mind it’s such a huge shame to ruin what should be a special experience whether it’s dining out or playing with the children by using some little hand-held device that lets you live life at one step removed.

    Another of my pet hates is the holiday-maker, usually male in his forties, who is determined to prove that the office cannot run properly in his absence. He lies by the swimming pool making long (and very noisy) phonecalls to his workmates. Please! We don’t need to know about his “high-powered” job. We don’t care. We just want peace and quiet and a chance to enjoy some time with our loved ones. It’s a holiday so chill out!

    Okay, rant over. It really is a topic that makes my blood boil. Maybe it is a sign that I’m getting old but if I end up like the lady playing footsie across the dining room then maybe that isn’t such a bad thing!
    Jennifer.

  10. If I was still in the dating game, and my date picked up his ipad, or phone, to check his emails, I’m afraid I would smile very sweetly, get to my feet, and say, ‘I hope the two of you have a lovely meal together,’ and go. Meal times – be they dates, or family occasions – are for talking, socialising with a ‘real’ person so no ipads or phones unless you want them to end up in a very uncomfortable place which will make sitting difficult, not to say impossible.
    Maggie

  11. Very good post, Jennifer. I do take my phone with me on dates with the hubs, but only in case there’s an emergency with my children…and even then it’s on vibrate, not ring. I think we’ve only had them call one time in all our years of parenting.

    The love of devices is the same in Brazil as in other places in the world, people seem unable to function without constantly checking for new messages or talking on the phone while shopping, etc. Maybe if I were a more tech-savvy person, I’d be among them, but part of the enjoyment of getting out of the house (even for grocery runs) is to get away from all the “noise” of my day-to-day life. I do some of my best plotting while running my shopping cart up and down the aisles.

  12. Wow- you’ve really touched a nerve here! We have a technology free meal time, and all mobile phones have to be in a specific bowl by 8.30pm every night- no exception. That way we get family time that isn’t interrupted by teenager txts which very often just ask ‘what you up to?’ I was infuriated yesterday when I had coffee with someone who took 3 calls and sent texts and answered her emails the whole 40 minutes. In the end I just made an excuse and left – why bother arranging to fill up MY precious free time with her other social stuff? Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my technology, I spend a lot of time with my iPad and online and have wonderful friends out there in cyber world, but when I’m face to face with someone I always try to give my undivided attention!

  13. Well done Jennifer your comments are so in keeping with my thoughts on the subject. I only use my phone to let my husband know I’m on the way home and I text friends or family if there is something important to say that needs instant attention. When out with friends I certainly want to talk face to face with whoever is sitting near me. My late aunt was one of those people who always made you feel as though she had all the time in the world to talk to you and listen to what you had to say. These days the art of conversation is at risk.
    I have just read a book of French short stories and one of them was all about a woman who was invited out for dinner. She really looked forward to her evening, bought a new dress and had her hair done. when they were in the restaurant talking and eating their dinner, the man’s mobile phone went and the whole atmosphere was disrupted. She was very disappointed but determined to make the best of it so they continued their meal. When he was helping her into her coat she noticed out of the corner of her eye that he was looking for messages on his phone. that did it! They did not go out together again.

  14. Oh yes, I think there is going to be a whole generation where dating is going to be very boring indeed!
    My 14 year old daughter had a “boy” over for a few hours last Saturday. I’d asked her lots of questions about him but nothing too complicated – what do his parents do, does he have siblings – you know the usual. None of which she seemed to be able to answer but all of which I put down to teenage evasiveness. So anyway, they had a swim in the pool and then after sat on the deck area during which time barely a word was spoken . They were both on their devices the entire time, giving themselves RSI!!
    Now I understand why she doesn’t seem to know even the most basic information about him!!
    It’s mad!

  15. It’s getting worse, isn’t it, if the younger generation can’t even communicate face to face with one another! I do hope you can tactfully explain to your daughter that talking is better than texting, Amy, otherwise I fear for her love life when she gest older. I mean, how do you discover if you and your intended are properly suited unless you talk?

    Charlotte, I would love to read that story! It’s such a reflection of today’s society. We are so enamoured of all our technical devices that we are forgetting that it’s people who matter most. You can’t cuddle up to your iPad – can you?

    Maggie and Louisa, I’m with you on the walking out scenario. Either I am worth talking to or I’m not but I am certainly not going to sit there and be ignored! Don’t get me wrong, I do think you can sit in a comfortable silence.
    My late husband and I didn’t need to chat all the time when we were out. We were just so happy to be together that endless conversation wasn’t necessary. However, we never would have dreamt of using phones etc. We preferred to focus on each other.

    Tina, interesting to hear that the situation is the same in Brazil. Obviously, it’s a global problem and, yes, I do think it’s a problem. We are losing the art of communicating and that is extremely sad if not dangerous. If you cannot talk properly then you cannot resolve important issues satisfactorily which could explain why there is such conflict around the world.
    Jennifer.

  16. I would say yes it does take away some of the romance but only to a limited extent ,as lets say a text message late at night saying sleep well .. now that is something that can still make every girls heart soar ! But during dinner absolutely yes ! It is also in my views dangerous as for exsample online dating and chat rooms ..there is noting like a online stalker or some weird serial killer to kill of the romance !

  17. Desere, yes to the goodnight text and a definite no to the online stalking! Sends shudders down my spine just to think of some pervert getting hold of one’s phone no and using it to his/her own purposes.

    I suppose the the thing is that technology isn’t to blame – it’s us and how we use it.

    Jennifer

  18. I don’t think that people should use a phone at the dinner table or around other people. If I have to talk or interact with one, I excuse myself and go off to the side. Poeple who are in front of you are the most important. Not every ring of the phone is important either. They don’t have to be answered right away.

  19. Susan, I so agree with you. Whilst you are chatting on the phone, you are ignoring the person you are supposed to be spending time with. OK, an emergency can happen at any time and you may need to take a call but to sit there, chatting away to someone else while your friend/partner/ lover twiddles their thumbs is nothing short of rude, is it?
    Jennifer

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