AH Tech Talk: Do You Suffer From Smartphone Anxiety?

May 7, 2014 - Written By Cory McNutt

Do you suffer from Nomophobia?  I know that I do, but don’t worry, you can’t catch it – at least not from me.  Not sure if you are infected, or even what it is – Wikipedia defines nomophobia as the fear of being out of mobile phone contact.  The term is an abbreviation for, “nomobile-phone-phobia,” and was coined as far back as 2010 from a UK study that found about 58-percent of men and 47-percent of women suffer from the phobia.

Some will never turn their mobile phone off for fear of missing ‘something.’  Most cited that they needed to keep in touch with family or friends, while others said their work might try to contact them.  The word ‘phobia’ may be a little strong – it is really the condition of simple anxiety.  This anxiety can flare up when you misplace your phone, your battery starts to get too low, there is no network coverage, you have to leave your phone on the bathroom shelf (yes, you took it into the bathroom) while you shower or you get up to go to the bathroom and after it is too late to turn back, you realize that you phone is on the end table by your chair – you know exactly what I am talking about.

Over 50-percent think they already suffer from this made-up word and many worry they will fall victim to the affliction.  You know how they say that admitting that you have a problem is half the battle to recovery…well most people surveyed were ‘very concerned,’ ‘concerned’ or ‘somewhat concerned’ about smartphone addiction, while only 16-percent were ‘not concerned at all.’  Is it possible that we have become dependent on technology as an emotional crutch to get us through the day?  I wonder what would happen to some kids in school, some young adults at work or older people out traveling and forgetting their smartphones – some people would panic all day long worrying about what they are missing.

I am really not that bad, and I had a mild form of nomophobia before mobile phones – I hated to be away from the house too long for fear I would miss a phone call and I was so relieved when answering machines were readily available – that made leaving the house or travel more tolerable, but there was always a chance you would get a call and nobody would leave a message!  When cell phones first came out, I bought one almost immediately, even though there was nobody much to talk to, and you have to remember, years ago, our mobile phones were used mainly for emergency phone calls and maybe an occasional text – mobile phones were not that prevalent, so it was no big deal to leave it at home…chances are nobody tried to call me.  There was just something so comforting to feel that piece of technology in my pocket – maybe it was really a feeling of power.

What makes matters worse is that the once lowly ‘dumb phone,’ has all of a sudden become a smartphone, capable of so much more than making a simple phone call or even sending text messages. This ubiquitous device can connect to the internet, we can read our emails, make reservations, travel across maps, find places to eat, find places of interest, do our banking, we can read books, it has become our dictionary, game machine, social media connection and even our Bible in some in cases – it can be whatever you need it to be…it’s no wonder people get anxious when they leave all of that behind.  Can you blame me when I panic?

There are appropriate times to turn your phone to mute – in school, at a business meeting, certain social functions, the movie theater or at church, etc. – but I see no reason to turn it off completely…that is just lunacy.  I get a little panicky when an upgrade is downloading and then it forces a rebooting – those five minutes seem like an hour and it even warns you with a message that you will not have cell service during this time…shall I continue, Yes or No?  It takes everything in me to press ‘Yes!’

But in today’s society, we tend to turn our phones off less and less, because on the information super highway, nobody wants to get off.  People are constantly taking pictures and posting them to Facebook, Google+, Instagram, or Tweeting – we want everybody to be up-to-date with what’s happening in our lives, after all, it is so exciting.  Many times, these internet “friends” are all some people have so we tend to feel a real connection with them and so it is normal to become somewhat addicted to our smartphones and therefore a bit anxious when we forget them or misplace them.  We get immediate feedback from a text or tweet, think of it as a reward – we give and we receive, and look how we act if we text somebody and they don’t answer us right away – another reason for anxiety.  What could they possibly be doing that is more important than answering my text…possibly they have a life that extends beyond their smartphone – nay.

I am constantly working on my addiction and nomophobia – I get most discussed with myself at church, but Facebook makes it ‘Okay’ to take your smartphone to church because I have to check-in and let my peeps know that I am ‘Praising God.”  But if I can make it through a church service without peering into my pocket during a prayer, searching for that blue notification light, I feel that I would be taking a huge step toward some self-healing.  Notice that I said “would” be a huge step, but in the meantime I will keep praying about it.

Please look us up on our Google+ Page and let us know if you suffer from Nomophobia and what you are doing to heal yourself…as always, we would love to hear from you.