Eva Bradley: Loving connection hard to be without

By Eva Bradley

I have a broken heart. It happened a couple of nights ago when quite unexpectedly one of the great loves of my life fell from my pocket and smashed on the roadside. Everyone with an iPhone will feel my pain right now. There is nothing quite so devastating as seeing one of the things you care most for nearly destroyed in a moment's carelessness.

Despite the screen splintering into a million pieces, the phone still works, but only just. I have taped her up and she is battered beyond belief, but I can still squint between the shards to read my emails and carefully tap out texts until a more permanent fix can be arranged.

But fixing my broken heart is harder.

Scientific testing using MRI brain scanning has found that when an iPhone image is shown to a person, it generates the same flurry of brain activity normally associated with feelings of love and compassion. The response was almost exactly the same as when they were presented with an image of a partner or family member.

Other studies claim our iPhones tap into the same associative learning pathways in the brain that generate other compulsive behaviours, such as gambling, and that using our phones generates the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine.

Although it seems shameful to admit, I fear that in my case this must be true.

Like a girl in the throes of first love, I often find myself unable to keep my hands off my phone, even in the most inappropriate circumstances. At a busy restaurant with friends I play with it secretly, touching it under the table when I shouldn't. At work with clients when I hear it beep, I fight like a tiger to keep my attention focused on the job and my hands off my vibrating iPhone.

In all spare moments of the day, I find myself checking and rechecking for new emails in the same way one might jab repeatedly at an elevator button even though it will never make it arrive any sooner. I'm addicted to checking.

Even my boyfriend has to endure the omnipresent rival, with my iPhone on one side of the bed with me and him on the other.

Like a mother will never admit to loving one child more than the other, I could never make a call between the boyfriend or the iPhone. But while I can endure a day without the former while I'm at work, if I leave home without my iPhone I feel the absence like a missing limb.

The problem I face now is that I have to send the phone away to be fixed. But this brings with it the attendant problem of how I will manage to cope without it while it's gone.

I am in a catch 22 situation and the current solution seems to be putting up with my tatty, taped-up version because a broken iPhone in the hand is worth two away in the workshop.

Perhaps, though, it will be cathartic to be parted for a short time. Like any addiction, the best cure is to go cold turkey - to record a vacation message and then walk away with confidence knowing that the separation anxiety will ease. Then I can enjoy a world where my friends have my undivided attention at the dinner table and my boyfriend can confidently know he's top dog, without any other rival for my affections.

Eva Bradley is an award-winning columnist

- Northern Advocate

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