What is nomophobia?
The end of all phobias?
The fear of not having a phobia?
No – nomophobia is no mobile phone phobia, the fear of being without one’s phone.
And before you dismiss it as a phoney (sorry) syndrome applicable only to young people, consider the following.
New research suggests that “nearly all” Australian smartphone users experience the syndrome and for “more than one in 10, the phobia is so severe it leads to dependent or even dangerous use”.
AAP reports that a BehaviourWorks survey of 2838 Australians found 43 per cent spent more than three hours a day on their phones.
“The more time spent phone in hand, the higher level of nomophobia,” the report stated.
“Those with the fear are 11 times more likely to have a problematic dependency with their device, and 10 times more likely to use their phones when they shouldn’t, including in libraries, classrooms or cinemas.
“They’re 14 times more likely to use phones dangerously, when driving, cycling or walking.”
Nomophobia includes “the fear of not being able to communicate, losing connectivity, not being able to access information and giving up convenience,” Nine reports.
Lead researcher Fareed Kaviani, from Monash University, said nomophobia was associated with compulsive use.
“It might seem quite an innocuous emotion to be fearful of, not having a smartphone, because it does seem like a rational response when smartphones are so entrenched in our everyday lives,” said Mr Kaviani.
“But it also means we are more likely to use it when we shouldn’t be using it.
“Habits are involuntary, and mindless engagement can continue in physical environments where use is prohibited, like the cinema or library, or even become dangerous, such as using a phone while driving or crossing the road.”
The survey found 99 per cent of smartphone users exhibited some degree of nomophobia. While 37 per cent had only mild symptoms, nearly half experienced the phobia in the moderate range and 13 per cent had a severe case.
Sydney psychotherapist Dan Auerbach told Nine that dependent phone use could damage family and partner relationships.
“Whether or not we’re paying good attention to each other is a really central issue in most relationships,” he said.
A review of academic studies of nomophobia concluded that smartphone addiction is a public health problem “like any other addiction to harmful substances”. It broadened the definition: “nomophobia is the fear of feeling disconnected from the digital world”.
“People in contemporary society are not only addicted to the internet, videogames, and technology in general, but are also afraid of not having the means and technological resources to perform the basic functions such as relating, communicating, having fun, and accessing information.”
The study concluded that nomophobia promoted the “development of mental disorders, personality disorders, as well as problems in people’s self-esteem, loneliness and happiness”.
It affects our health, study and work by provoking constant distractions and produces a “distance and isolation from the physical world”.
A 2019 Indian study of nomophobia described it as a type of “over-connection syndrome” because our excessive mobile phone use reduces face-to-face interactions.
“We have to stay in the real world more than virtual world. We have to re-establish the human-human interactions, face-to-face connections. So we need to limit our use of mobile phones rather than banning it because we cannot ignore the force of technological advancement.”
Writer Ben Shelley spoke for many in his recent Medium essay on nomophobia.
“I am not even sure what I would do if my phone exploded and I could not get another. I run everything through there, from my banking to my messaging, emails and writing. It is my universal communication device and one that I do not feel as though I could not live without.”
He quoted the following eye-popping phone facts:
- the average smartphone owner unlocks their phone 150 times a day
- using smartphones for longer intervals of time changes brain chemistry
- 66 per cent of the world’s population shows signs of nomophobia
- 71 per cent usually sleep with or next to their mobile phone
- smartphone use and depression are correlated
- 75 per cent of Americans use their mobile phones in the toilet
- 20 per cent of people would rather go without shoes for a week than take a break from their phone.
So, the numbers are in, the issue is real, what should we do?
Mr Shelley shares the rules he has put in place for himself.
1. When my fiancée arrives home in the evening, the phone goes off.
2. The phone is turned off after I have finished brushing my teeth.
3. I check my balances only in the morning and after work.
4. I look to leave the phone on but without the internet enabled where possible during the day.
5. I remind myself every day that it is just a phone. It is not my life partner.
Do you suffer from nomophobia? Can you imagine a life without the convenience of a smartphone?
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