When Your Most Significant Other is a Computer

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It’s the relationship you spend more time on than any other. It has deepened even during the past few years. When things go wrong, you become enraged and tearful and attack inanimate objects—but you’re willing to spend hours making things right.

Obviously, we’re talking about your relationship with your personal computer.

Consider this: In a survey earlier this year, 64 percent of Americans say they spend more time with their computer than with their significant other. Meanwhile, 84 percent said they were more dependent on their computer than they were three years ago.

Probing emotions

Those were just a couple of the recently released findings from a consumer survey conducted in January for SupportSoft Inc., a firm in Redwood City, Calif., that makes software for computer help desks. Anthony Rodio, the firm’s chief marketing officer, said SupportSoft commissioned the survey to test the waters before getting into the consumer market.

They were surprised, Rodio said, to find that computer problems could unleash such powerful emotions. When confronted with a dead computer, 19 percent admitted to wanting to hurl it out the nearest window, 9 percent felt stranded and alone, 11 percent used language normally reserved for special occasions, 7 percent did so loudly, 3 percent did so tearfully and 3 percent additionally vented their wrath on inanimate objects. (They were not asked about animate targets—it was a survey, not a police blotter.)

On the other hand, a healthy 32 percent said that they basically shrugged.

The respondents (who were all over 18, owned a PC and enjoyed broadband Internet access) estimated they spent an average of 12 hours a month wrestling with computer problems. Unsurprisingly, 48 percent said they would rather help a friend move than deal with a computer problem. Thirty percent said they currently felt more frustration with their computer than they felt three years ago.


Rodio said that, after digesting the results, his firm decided that people were looking for support and empathy during their times of computer troubles. So SupportSoft made the decision not to follow the example of the service firms that use “geek” and “nerd” in their business names, and instead touted their staff as supportive and caring “computer therapists.” They simply named their consumer service “support.com.”

“At this point we can barely hire enough people to keep up with the business,” Rodio told LiveScience.

As for those people spending more time with their computers than with their animate partners, “The computer is a nice tool, but using one is not the same as face-time,” he said. “Closing the laptop would be a good thing now and then.”