Agony Aunt: Married at First Sight (or to my phone?)

Image description: newspaper clippings with the words ‘agony aunt’ written in block letters.

That’s right, this week we’re tackling the weighty issues head on: sex, alcohol and Married at First Sight Australia? To all those who claimed that this column wasn’t ‘hard-hitting’ or ‘proper journalism’, we hope you take a long hard look at yourselves because this, my friends, is vindication. 

I can’t stop watching ‘Married At First Sight Australia’. I have so many essays to get on with. My family is angry I won’t come on their lockdown walks with them. I simply can’t stop watching…. it’s just too good. Please tell me I’m not alone in this obsession. How can I get on with my life and get my work done when it is just there every night on E4 luring me in? Need help. – Anonymous 2nd year

E: In the homogeneity of lockdown life reality shows are all the more addictive. When one’s own personal choices are limited to picking Aldi or Tesco for the Big Shop, or going left or right through the park on the daily walk, the heightened melodrama of the soapy reality that is Married At First Sight only becomes more alluring.

Who will stay married? Who will get divorced? Who cares about the unfinished essays, missed calls from Grandma, and the angry family members when these people on telly are making choices that may possibly affect their entire lives? “It’s psychological research, Mum,” I hear you insist. “This is important to me, Grandma. Please can I have the remote back, Dad. But before you go, what’s your spicy take on this couple here?”

At this point Dad will probably blink at the telly, perplexed, and mutter something about how TV has gone down the shitter. He’ll then switch the channel to Dave and cheer when he sees they’re showing yet another rerun of James May’s Cars of the People.

But to return to the problem at hand, how do you tackle a reality TV addiction? Or any TV addiction, for that matter? (Dads of the world, it’s ok to have an unhealthy dependence on motoring programmes fronted by James May. I hear you.) 

An idea a friend suggested to me was to ration out TV, and tell yourself for every essay completed/walk taken/meal cooked you may reward yourself with an episode. This way you will not only feel happier watching because it feels like you’ve earned it, but also because you won’t be distracted by nagging guilty feelings about everything you haven’t done.

I tried to follow this advice myself. It went quite badly, mainly because I managed to convince myself that half-skimming a 50-page article and making some slapdash notes counted as work. Pleased at this minor productivity, I then let myself fall into a Dance Moms YouTube spiral for the rest of the afternoon, which in my head was totally justified. To those of you who can actually stick to the rationing method: I salute you, sirs. And to those who don’t, I salute you too. Life is hard, and if watching complete randos from Australia marry other complete randos from Australia brings you happiness, then you’re probably doing something right. 

But maybe you should do some work, just after finishing this episode…. Or maybe after the next one… Or the next one…


Dear Elsie and Sonia, I can’t stop going on my phone! My screen time is absolutely through the roof in lockdown 3.0, I think it’s because there’s absolutely nothing to do (aside from my essays but let’s not talk about that!) I’ve tried setting screen time limits, tried leaving it in another room, tried deleting social media apps but I just log in from safari. I really truly am addicted to my iphone! I feel awful! What should I do? Sincerely, a casualty of the digital age

Dear casualty, 

S: Thank you for forwarding us the dominant problem of our age. Luckily, our wisdom has no bounds, and Elsie and I actually never use our phones and communicate entirely via messenger pigeon, so you’ve come to the right advice column.

When we were all in Ox, I would study with my two friends in the college library and we’d hand our phones off in a chain between the desks. This was a good method, although it didn’t prevent us from guiltily reaching over the germ-barriers to take our devices back. Nor did it prevent that unfortunate message app on your unavoidable laptop. Really, it’s like Apple made the feature to keep us in one perpetual group chat. Big Brother wants to keep you contactable. Perhaps this is less a fight against your own addiction, and more a fight against the cellular web system itself. If I disappear in the next few days, refer back to this advice column.

If you’re not quite prepared to fight against the man (sad, truly), there are likely alternative solutions. We don’t have mates to hand our phones off to, but we do have trusty parents! Toss your mum that cell or strap it to the back of your cat. Let the little beast roam around outside and hope someone doesn’t nab him/her. If this does happen, all the better! No better cure for a phone addiction than petty theft.

In all seriousness, screen time limits and deleted apps will rarely work, simply because they are easily reversed or ignored. Try being conscious of your usage by putting your phone on a chair across the room and only using it at this location, or wrap a hair band around it. Every time you get up to use it or move the hair band aside, regard this as time spent on your device. This is all well and good, as we’re all a bit attached, but your phone should be considered a break rather than a constant, mindless activity. 

Finally, we would suggest messenger pigeons, but Elsie and I are trying to maintain our quirky, vintage allure, so opt for another solution that’s not ours.

Got a problem that you think merits the attention of the Agony Aunts? Submit it to us HERE! Good advice not guaranteed.

Yours in agony,

Elsie and Sonia


Art by Iona Shen