New research suggests consumers are increasingly afflicted with "nomophobia," a condition that causes anxiety when they're separated from their mobile phones. CIO.com blogger James A. Martin wonders if nomophobia is real or just another marketing gimmick.
Hi, my name is Jim, and I’m anomophobe. And I’m OK with that—for now.
Nomophobia—“no mobile phone phobia”—is the fear of being without a mobile phone. The term goes back to 2008, when the U.K. Post Office commissioned a study to examine anxieties caused by the lack of mobile phones. The study found that 53 percent, or more than half, of the respondents suffered from nomophobia. A more recent studyfound two-thirds of survey respondents in the U.K. exhibited symptons of nomophobia.
(Image from TheVine.com.au)
Inevitably, a recovery center in Southern California, Morningside Recovery Center, formed what is said to be the first nomophobia recovery group. Back on the other side of the pond, the Westin Dublin hotel in Ireland now offers a “digital detox” package. Upon check-in, guests voluntarily surrender their electronic devices for storage in the hotel safe and receive a detox kit that includes—I’m not making this up—a tree-planting kit, according to CNN.
So how do you know if you havenomophobia? According to the experts, here are a few telltale signs:
Panic or anxiety when you don’t have your phone or it won’t work (because the battery is dead or some other drama, a.k.a. Hurricane Sandy);
You have more than one mobile phone;
You compulsively check messages and battery life;
You can’t stop using the phone, even when it’s not appropriate (such as in a theater watching a movie or live performance);
The phone becomes an issue in your relationships or hinders your work, education, or other goals.
A recent KNBC report profiled a woman with three mobile phones who carries two chargers everywhere. According to KNBC, the woman even takes a phone with her into the shower.
Clearly, nomophobiais becoming a marketing catchphrase and budding media trend. And yet, I admit I feel a twinge of separation anxiety whenever I leave the house, get halfway to my destination, and realize I’ve left my smartphone at home. That almost never happens anymore, and I supposed that says something, too. Before leaving home, I pat my pockets habitually to check for my phone.
I also have two smartphones—an Android and an iPhone. (I only have two phones so I can review both Android and iOS apps for this blog. Honest!)
So is anyone who owns multiple electronic devices and uses them a lot nomophobic? It depends.
A smartphone or tablet is an expensive piece of equipment that, if lost or stolen, someone can use to make purchases you didn’t authorize. Anxiety about being without your smartphone, therefore, doesn’t automatically mean you’re nomophobic; it means you don’t want to lose money. Or as they sometimes say in the field of psychology, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
For me, vacations are the real test of nomophobia. When I take time off, I use my smartphone or tablet to learn about the place I’m visiting, make reservations and such. In other words, I only use my devices to enhance my vacation.
With the holidays coming up, many of us will be taking time off. It could be a good opportunity to see if you have nomophobia. I plan to go off the grid for at least a few days during the holidays. But that’s because I’m expecting to unwrap a Kindle Paperwhite and a Blu-ray player.
Do you have nomophobia? If so, was there a specific moment when you realized you’re afflicted?
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.