Do you have a fear of being without a mobile device? Do you find yourself compulsively checking your phone? The term nomophobia (no-mobile) was coined in 2010 following a study for the UK Post Office. The study conducted by a research organization, YouGov, found that 53 percent of mobile users in Britain tend to be anxious when they lose their phones, run out of battery life, or have no network coverage. In the US, the situation is even worse. Sixty-five percent of people sleep with or next to their smart phones, thirty-four percent admitted to answering their cell phone during intimacy, and an estimated sixty-six percent suffer from nomophobia. Apparently this phobia is on the rise especially among high school and college students. Are we controlled by and addicted to our phones? Has technology become the latest master that we serve?
One study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology suggests that our smart phone addiction is tied to our need for connection to people. The researchers from McGill University conclude that it is our desire for human interaction that can be addictive, not the phone itself. They contend that humans are social beings, yet they acknowledge that when we hyper-connect it pushes the brain to run on overdrive which can lead to unhealthy addictions. So how can we manage our addiction to our smart phones?
For starters, we can turn off notifications for communications that don't require an immediate response and set an alarm to check our phones only at designated times of the day. We can also choose to not respond to work emails or calls after a certain time at night or on weekends, assuming our workplace is in agreement with this policy. We can decide to turn our phones off completely at certain times, such as dinner time with family, and increase our face-to-face conversations. We don't learn the subtle cues of communication when we can't see the nonverbal cues such as facial expression, body language, eye contact that is missing in a text or phone call. Even FaceTime or Skype have limitations in the subtle nuances of communication. You might try a technology fast where you go without a device for an entire day. Choose to sleep with your significant other and not your cell phone, place it in another room or a good distance away and mute it or turn it off at night. Ultimately, you want to work on achieving balance in your smart phone usage and reliance. Monitor your minutes, texts, and data used over one month so you will know how many hours a day/week is spent using your device. Is there a way to cut back on your usage and increase your live conversations for some of the time? If you live in the same city, then making an effort to be together can produce deeper and more intimate connections.
When we have an excessive dependence on a substance, object, or activity that prevents us from functioning fully and efficiently then we need to consider ways to address these issues. There are multiple things we could become addicted to in our society which can damage or destroy our relationships. Take a look at your life and decide if there is any one activity or substance that you use to numb emotional pain, avoid conflicts, and/or escape from life on a regular basis. Decide today to take control of your life and your choices that dampen your level of joy and fulfillment.