I panic about the imagined loss of my phone at least twice a week. My husband pretty much ignores me now whenever I freak out about not being able to find it in my purse. It’s always there of course, floating on the deep dark bottom among the forgotten tubes of lipstick and errant loose change. At first, I’m relieved to find it, then resentful that it’s such a ball and chain. It’s a complicated relationship.
That’s why my interest was piqued when I came across a questionnaire designed to determine whether a person has ‘nomophobia’ or a fear of being without a smartphone. (Get it? NO MObile Phobia.) While studying patterns of mobile phone use, researchers at Iowa State University saw that some people expressed feelings of nervousness or fear of being without their devices. They developed 20 questions to help determine the extent to which a person is nomophobic. For their study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, researchers asked participants to rate their responses to each question on a scale from 1 (disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). The higher your score on the quiz, the more severe your nomophobia. Questions include, ‘I would be annoyed if I could not use my smartphone and/or its capabilities when I wanted to do so,’ and ‘If I could not check my smartphone for a while, I would feel a desire to check it.’
Out of a possible 140 points (the most severe nomophobia), I scored 84. I’m OK with that, primarily because my smartphone use isn’t interfering with my work, relationships or health. It may sound faddish (and maybe it is) but there are rehab programs designed to help people overcome smartphone fixation, and researchers in Italy propose that nomophobia should be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Experts compare cell phone addiction to any other behavioural addiction like shopping or gambling. And if it’s negatively affecting your life, it’s a problem. As with any compulsive behaviour, treatment can help. Your healthcare provider will know how to advise you.
For now, I’m going to make a concerted effort to keep my phone use in check. Maybe it’ll spend more time at the bottom of my purse.