Nomophobia Changed My Life By: Dwight Bain

Yep, it finally happened to me. 12 days ago I dropped my iPhone into water and experienced "Nomophobia" which is the phobic reaction to being without your cell phone, (no-mo-mobile-phone-phobia).

For the first time in my adult life I don't have a mobile phone, and for the first time in a long time I wasn’t able to talk/text/FB/Instagram/Tweet/Post or watch baby panda's sneeze on YouTube. (Don’t judge until you’ve seen this adorable video).  Oh, and I found out that while my phone was dead, I'm actually more alive. Here's what I’ve noticed during these days of technology detox and full scale withdrawal. A lot of people are seriously addicted to their smart phones and sadly, I was one of them.

There are a series of very clever YouTube videos about the dumb things people do with smart phones, (missing the love of their life, not seeing cash right in front of them, running into trees, buildings, traffic, trains, all because they were watching their phone instead of their feet), and while they are funny – the truth they illustrate is quite sad. Our culture is addicted to smart media – and that’s quite dumb. One study found that 7 in 10 people are actually afraid to lose or be separated from their mobile phones. Dr. Leslie Perlow from Harvard Business School did some pioneer research on the addictive nature of mobile technology and discovered from 1600 respondents that -


70% check their smart phone within one hour of getting up.
56% check their phone within an hour of going to sleep.
48% check over the weekend, including on Friday and Saturday nights.
51% check continuously during vacation.
44% said they would experience "a great deal of anxiety" if they lost their phone and couldn't replace it for a week.


In fact, a study commissioned by Nokia discovered the average cellular phone user can't ignore their phone for more than 6 minutes and check their phone for updates 150 times per day!


While this may seem excessive, think about how many times you pick up your phone to check a text message, or email, or tweet, or Instagram or Facebook, or the weather report, or your bank account balance. Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found 56% of American adults now have smart phones while 36% have only basic mobile phones and 9% don't own a cell phone at all. 


Sadly, more than 50% admit to texting and driving, even though a Mythbuster's controlled experiment showed this behavior was 6 times more dangerous than driving drunk. (Did you see the news story of the woman who posted, “Happy listening to the Happy song,” on Facebook right before she had a car wreck from texting and driving and died at the scene of the crash).


Smart phones are more than just phones because for many people they represent a soul mate, a constant companion and source of connection to the world around them.  According to a poll by SecurEnvoy, 70% of women have phone separation anxiety, (panic over the thought of losing their phone) as opposed to 61% of men.  Almost 75% of participants in the study indicated their smart phone is less than 5 feet from them at any given time. It's like our culture is now more connected to their smart phone than they are to their own family.


So, how can you tell if your smartphone connection has become a full-blown addiction?

Here are the symptoms to watch out for in you or a loved one –


·         Feeling stressed worried or anxious whenever you don’t have your phone in your hand or sight, (like it was a small child that needed constant attention)

·         Continually checking your cellphone for new tweets/posts or the need to instantly respond to text messages

·         Not really listening to the person in front of you because you are “checking a text” or posting a photo on Instagram or liking something on Pinterest.

·         Running an errand and turning around because you left your phone on the charger. (what did we do at Publix before we had smartphones to scan and comparison shop? Oh, that’s right, we had to think ahead. Gotcha)


One of the elements of addictive behavior is the classic denial dynamic that thinks, “well, I might have a problem, but my problem isn’t as bad as your problem”. And while doing research on nomophobia came to understand I was in the denial group. Simply stated – it had become a way bigger problem than I ever realized.


Over the last week and half I’ve had time to write some letters, read 3 books and exercise more. I helped a friend and got more sleep. Where did all the time come from? You guessed it – not having a phone to continually check, monitor and respond to. It’s hard to admit it but I was way too connected to my mobile phone and was more stressed because of it. Here’s how I define cellphone stress.


S - Self-Absorbed

T- Tired

R - Rushed

E - Exhausted

S - Serious

S - Solitude


The last one may seem unusual to you, but clinical research shows the more someone uses technology or social media, the less they are really connected to people. That’s right. MORE = LESS. More social media = less connection to real people and that’s a very bad trade.  


Anything can be abused to the point of dependence or addiction, including smartphones. It’s interesting to notice as culture becomes hungrier for smarter/faster technology to stay connected that cellphone-free zones are more common. Remember when restaurants and airports began to ban public smoking because it affected others? Now the same places are banning cellphone use by creating "Quiet Zones” and one chain even offers discounts for guests who deposit their mobile device with the hostess to pick up after their meal.


Maybe the rapid rise of smart phones that lead to dumb behavior, (for me wasting a lot of time), has reached a peak because there are national campaigns to get people to turn off their smartphones for a day, (Serenity Saturdays), I’ve heard that many spiritual leaders take a ‘Fast” from technology to better hear from God and the 9% of people in the US who don’t have cellphones mostly don’t want them. Why? Because they have less stress from the simplicity of their lives.  I define this type of minimalist change in these words -


S - Self-Aware

I - Insightful

M - Meditation

P - Peaceful

L - Listening

E- Experience Life


Losing a phone, (or having it stolen as the case might be), might make some people panic, but the experience has given me a welcome respite to a simpler life.  It’s been almost two weeks without the temptation to check messages at traffic lights. Instead I listen to music safe for the little ears on or audiobooks from the Library. I’m able to watch people in public places, or read another book on my Kindle. When our family watched a movie, I actually watched the movie, instead of checking the time or texts on the phone in my hand. 


In short - my life is simpler with less stress. Nomophobia for me turned into Mo-Life-to-Enjoy. Maybe it will for you too. All it takes is a bathtub full of water.


(Update – since writing this article I did surrender to the voices around me that said no human could survive in today’s modern world without a cellphone… “It’s a safety issue” they assured. So I went back to the drawer of old technology and found a flip phone from 2009 and reactivated it. Works fine for calls and won’t play “Words with Friends”. Saves money and time over the smartphone. Simple.)


About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Certified Life Coach in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change.


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