Technological advances in the field of communication have changed the way we all keep in contact. In a world where there are 1.4 mobile devices for every person, the telephone has evolved from a 1-to-1 communication device into a hub for all things social, convenient, and entertaining (as well as a home for the all-important novelty beer app).
In addition to their added utility, the smartphone has ushered in a new wave of neurotic behavior. The term “nomophobia” (an abbreviation for “no-mobile-phone phobia”) is defined as “the fear of being without a mobile device, or beyond mobile phone contact.” The term was coined in 2010, but a 2005 Bianchi and Phillips study found that nearly 53% of mobile phone users in Britain tend to be anxious when they “lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage.” The results were slightly higher in men than women.
There is even a 20-question test to determine whether or not you suffer from nomophobia. Participants rate statements from 1 (“completely disagree”) to 7 (“strongly agree”). Here are some examples of statements from the quiz:
“If I could not use my smartphone, I would be afraid of getting stranded somewhere,”
“Running out of battery in my smartphone would scare me,” and
“I would feel uncomfortable without constant access to information through my smartphone.”
Here’s what the results mean:
20: Not at all nomophobic.
21-60: Mild nomophobia.
61-100: Moderate nomophobia.
101-120: Severe nomophobia.
However, many believe nomophobia should not be classified as a phobia and that it’s merely the manifestation of a symptom of anxiety, not a condition in and of itself. Additionally, that it may just be society adjusting to the technology and the concept of being connected all of the time.
An overuse of smart phones has been proven to have an effect on important aspects of our daily lives. For instance, a survey of 2,000 participants revealed that “61% regularly text while at the wheel, 33% find that time to be more than suitable for emailing, 27% scroll down their Facebook News Feed while steering, 17% take selfies, 14% tweet and 11% resort to snapchatting.” This trend has lead to an increase in accidents caused by distracted drivers.
When it comes to sleeping habits, those who fall asleep to the light of their smart phones are actually telling their brains to stay awake. The blue light that phones give off communicates to the brain that it is morning and time to wake up. Conversely, red light will tell the brain it’s time to sleep. In anticipation of sleep, an individual’s melatonin levels rise. Melatonin is a hormone that helps with sleep cycles and circadian rhythms. Exposure to blue light prevents this rise in melatonin, making it difficult to fall asleep.
Additionally, smartphone users aren’t inclined to retain knowledge. According to Scientific American, “research on transactive memory finds that when we have reliable external sources of information about particular topics at our disposal, then this reduces our motivation and ability to acquire and retain knowledge about that particular topic.” In other words, there’s no reason to pick up a textbook when Google results will tell you what you need to know at a moment’s notice.
In order to fight back against nomophobia, put some distance between you and your mobile device. Adhering to some hard and fast rules can help with this. For example, when driving, just don’t touch it. Paying attention to your phone while driving is not only putting yourself in danger, but your passengers and other drivers as well. Make a sweet driving playlist on your music streaming application of choice before setting off then set it and forget it so you don’t have to be searching for songs while you drive. Furthermore, when going to sleep, plug it into the wall some place that’s out of reach from your bed. If you insist on digesting media as you fall asleep, grab a book.
If you’re a nomophobe, it’s important to keep in mind that not that long ago people survived without smart phones. They looked up directions before leaving the house, called businesses to find out when they were closing, and actually made eye contact with the person they had dinner with. Do not be afraid of disconnecting. Once the withdrawal symptoms fade away, you might never go back.