Divorce Lawyers often see trends developing before others. The reason for this is that what can start out as an annoying habit in a relationship, can turn into the final straw in divorce terms. What began as a trickle of similar cases has now become a torrent of complaints about the clickaholic. As a consequence, petitions for unreasonable behaviour have notably increased as a result in the last year. So what is a clickaholic, a term referred to by my firm, (and not to be confused by the pop group of the same name or the website)? A clickaholic falls into three distinct categories:-
- The chronic.
- The needy.
- The deluded.
The Chronic Clickaholic
This is someone that is now so obsessed with obtaining an online bargain that every available moment is spent clicking shopping sites accordingly. What at first site might be prudent shopping has turned into an addiction. The mere sight of the words 30% Off, Half Price or the addictive 70% Off becomes even more attractive when such purchase is so easy and only a click away. To some the thrill of such purchases has overtaken all else and the trend is growing.
Online sites have become exceedingly bright at tapping into the phenomena. They will repeatedly send to the purchasers' similar style purchases for their clicking delight, or tempt them with what others who have purchased such items have also prudently purchased. The whole online business has tapped into something both brilliant and sinister at the same time.
The clickaholic is made to believe that they are so immensely clever to have bought this bargain, so that they can justify the expenditure not only to the family, but more importantly to themselves. The whole issue of whether the item is really needed becomes irrelevant. It's cheap. It's a bargain. Aren't I really clever?
However in truth, the temptation for many allows them to be sucked into feelings of euphoria and panic, the consequences of which will be felt in some relationships for the next year or more. As one client sadly put it to me recently, "we've only just paid off for her purchases from last year, I just can't go through this again".
Purchases of the chronic clickaholic are leading to the demise of the relationship particularly in households where the budgets are stretched too far and because of the ease by which these purchases are made. In many of the cases we have seen, it started so innocently with sensible online food shopping to make life easier. Then as the party in question, so often the wife or female cohabitee, clicks away to deal with the necessities they end up becoming tempted by other items. Again, in the beginning they feel very clever to save on items that they needed like hoovers, white goods etc. but then it seems to go to another level. We call this serotonin spending. It is the same kind of thrill that over exercising can cause when it goes from healthy to dangerous.
Members of the public were amazed when Black Friday television reports appeared of people fighting in Tescos, Sainsburys etc. for cheap bargains, but the clickaholic has no need to get into a punch up in store. They can do this all by themselves in the privacy of their homes. Black Friday and Cyber Monday has sent such clickaholics into their own personal frenzy. These dates, should be followed by "Idiot Thursday" when the clickaholic sits down their partner to assess the real impact on their relationship.
The Needy Clickaholic
This is someone who spends the majority of their time not in the habit of purchasing online, but in needing to be connected to other people all of the time. By so doing they gradually exclude their partner from the relationship by spreading their time on a daily basis amongst their contacts. This group is constantly turning to Facebook, Friends Reunited and other new online forums and chats. Not only do they click themselves out of relationships by their constant responses to inane nonsense, but neglect the basics of a relationship which is normal communication.
We have all seen these couples in restaurants where the only words uttered between them are to place their order and to ask for the bill. We used to hear about golf and football widows who felt neglected by their partner's dedication to sport to their exclusion, but now the internet widow or widower is the norm - those spouses who can only hope for a snatch of conversation between the next text, tweet or email.
In the case of the needy clickaholic, often the obsessive clicking is an excuse for them not to commit to their current relationship, whether that relates to their spouse or children. To the recipient of this behaviour it says only one thing: anything or anyone else is more important or interesting. This behaviour in some has engendered such frustrations and feelings of worthlessness that it has directly led to the end of the relationship. Aside from anything, such behaviour, particularly if they have been asked to repeatedly refrain from it, is rude.
This group is very similar to the above, but perhaps starts out in a business context. The business man or woman who believes that they must constantly click away when at home, on holiday, out with friends or family outings answering every single text, tweet or email as if their very existence depends on it. Many clients have described similar behaviour. One client told me "we were having a lie in one Sunday morning, and the texts began. I asked him to turn off his phone because it was his day off. He refused to do so. We were in the middle of an intimate moment, when he said 'just a moment' reached for his phone, by which time my ardour had turned to white hot fury. I have to admit I took his phone and threw it into the pond. I cannot begin to describe what happened next". For the absence of doubt, causing criminal damage to your partner or spouse's phone, iPad or computer is not an option, despite your frustration.
This week a survey a survey in Canada remarked that stress levels and lack of sleep increased inexorably in those with an obsessive tendency to check their emails, texts etc. They stated that setting a pattern of only looking at your emails three times a day leads to greater emotional stability. Tell that to the deluded clickaholic found marching up and down restaurants, cinema foyers and around holiday destinations clicking into their phones, where they have had to be surgically removed from their devices just to eat.
Whist of course CEO of major corporate entities might actually have the need to behave like this, the majority of normal spouses or partners do not. Psychologists would say that it is the need to look important rather than being important that is the real issue.
So do remember the next time you are tempted to click away on your iPhone or tablet, think before you click. This could be a click too far.