Those who are ‘nomophobic’, are arguably those who need a digital detox the most! People that suffer from an overwhelming, crippling, anxiety when their phone has died or has no signal would definitely benefit from some time away from the devices that we all hardly ever go without.
The term literally means ‘no-mobile-phone-phobia’. As we revealed in an earlier article, research commissioned by Royal Mail and carried out by YouGov in 2008, found that 53% of Brits felt anxious when they “lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage”. Ten years on, multiple studies have proved that this number is now likely to be significantly higher.
Given the original purpose of mobile phones, you might think that those suffering from nomophobia would fear missing out on calls and texts the most, but one study by Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking found that the anxiety was actually related to other aspects of using their smartphones. Our phones have essentially become extensions of ourselves; smartphone use is all about the ultra-easy access to content that has become so important to our day-to-day lives, whether this is personal photos saved on the device, or access to friends’ lives and updates through social apps.
And that’s perhaps a better way to understand nomophobia: the anxiety of being without the phone is not about missing the device itself, but about losing the gateway to the aspect of our lives that the phone connects us to. Our phones offer us a form of escapism, and not having this option to ‘escape’ understandably makes some phone users anxious.
Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking believe the number of people suffering from nomophobia will only increase as technology becomes more personalised, and as we become more and more reliant upon it. And with children growing up today who haven’t had any other experience but 24:7 access to the online world at the click of a button and a few swipes, it’s easy to see how the number of people suffering from separation anxiety when away from their phones will only go up.
A 2015 study by American organisation Pew Research Center found yet more compelling evidence for the existence of nomophobia, especially around the theory that smartphones have become an extension of the self. They found young adults heavily rely now on their mobile phones for job seeking, educational content and health information and that 44% of smartphone owners had a problem doing something they needed to do when they didn’t have their phone with them – the biggest proportion of this being around getting directions. So it’s easy to see why they found that 46% of Americans said they believed that they just “couldn’t live without their phones”, and even easier to see how this over-reliance could lead to feelings of nomophobia.
But it’s not just academics and researchers who have identified the spread of nomophobia. As we’ve written recently, even the Big Tech companies Apple and Google, are trying to do their bit to help users who are overly-dependent on their devices – seemingly as a means to help their customers before they experience serious anxiety themselves. And to be fair to the tech giants, tackling the problem before it becomes a big issue, is a useful way to go.
As always, we recommend taking a step back from using your your phone for absolutely everything you need to do in your life. If something can be done easily face to face or without a digital device, then try it. This approach is the premise of our 30 day digital detox: our 5:2 digital diet where you don’t use your phone two days a week can also help. If you find yourself exploding when you can’t find your phone, with mounting anxiety when your battery is running low, or just can’t stop checking your work emails when away from the office, then you might just be suffering from nomophobia. A digital detox is the best way to get nip any addiction in the bud, and take control again.