Not only do we use mobile phones to talk and text, they have become digital cameras, movie cameras, diaries, phone books, GPS locaters, radios, MP3 players, web browsers, data storage devices, encyclopaedias, alarm clocks, dictaphones, personal organisers, flash lights and more.
I appreciate that used wisely, mobiles are a great productivity tool. But more and more people are showing the signs and symptoms of mobile addiction, also known as nomophobia.
While getting married, starting a new job or going to the dentist have long been recognised as sources of great stress, a recent British report identifies a 21st Century affliction that upsets people just as much – the fear of being without mobile phone contact.
Some users have become so dependent, that discovering their phone is out of charge or misplaced is enough to send stress levels soaring. Up to 13 million Britons are sufferers with researchers concluding that as many as 53% of mobile phone users worldwide could be affected.
This new affliction has a name: nomophobia.
The numbers start to get alarming when you consider that globally, two billion people own a mobile phone with estimates that half the world’s population will have one within the next two years.
Here in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology have led a similar study on mobile phone addiction. They found the average Australian spends an hour a day making calls and sending text messages, with 22% of respondents classified as heavy or very heavy users (spending four hours or more a day using their mobiles).
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Here are some questions to help discover whether you are you a mobile addict or nomophobe:
- Do you get anxious if you don’t get an instant response to an SMS?
- Does the thought of turning your mobile off send you into a panic?
- When you go out to dinner, do you put your mobile on the table in front of you?
- Do you feel unloved if your phone doesn’t ring, ding or zing for a few hours?
- When you hop off a plane or finish a movie, is your phone the first thing you check?
If you answered yes to any of the above you may just be suffering from nomophobia.
The above questions are a bit of fun, but the addiction is real. Some mobile addicts tend to neglect obligations like work or study. They can drift apart from family and friends, send and answer messages throughout the night and suffer anxiety attacks at the thought of switching their phones off.
They also tend to suffer more sleep disorders. The majority of mobile phone addicts have low self esteem and feel the need to be constantly in contact with other people via their mobile.
If you’re worried that you’re at risk of becoming a nomophobe, here are some tips for breaking the habit:
1. Turn your mobile off when at movies or sporting events. You don’t need it on 24/7.
2. When concentrating or finishing a project, turn your mobile off to avoid interruptions.
3. Go out to dinner with your loved ones, not your mobile. Set it to silent and put it in your pocket or bag, rather than the table.
4. Set mobile hours – learn to turn it off at night.
5. Further, don’t sleep with your message alert on as this can wake you up throughout the night, causing disrupted sleep patterns.
6. If you must have your mobile on, set the ringtone to a quiet setting. The whole world doesn’t need to know that your phone is ringing.
7. Try going mobile free for a day or two. Who knows, you may just enjoy the peace and quiet.
Are you a nomophobe? Or perhaps you despise mobile phone technology.
Share your thoughts below.
Main sources: Queensland University of Technology Mobile Survey; Sydney Morning Herald – Mobile phones becoming a major addiction; Global Technology Forum – Addicted to the phone; Science News.