I challenge you to find a single person who isn’t holding onto their phone while riding on public transit or standing in line at the post office. They might be responding to texts, reading the news, or simply scrolling on social media. As I write this, I know that I am typically one of these people. Would you be? This isn’t just about filling the empty space of “downtime.” Unfortunately, it is an actual illness that has a very specific name: Nomophobia.
Nomophobia: Living with one’s cell phone constantly in hand
Nomophobia (short for the phrase “no-mobile phobia”) describes the syndrome of feeling disconnected, i.e., the anxiety and fear of not having a cell phone within reach. Along with this feeling of panic, there’s an additional need to constantly update ourselves on information others share. It’s the “need” to be able to consult our phones at all times, no matter the circumstances. This is a syndrome with easily recognizable symptoms:
- wasting time during the day on one's cell phone;
- having one's cell phone nearby at all times;
- being addicted to social media;
- always being distracted;
- suffering from insomnia;
- not being able to refrain from checking one's cell phone every five minutes;
- constantly texting on one's cell phone.
Those who suffer from Nomophobia have an obsessive fear of not being reachable via their cell phone. If they misplace it, lose signal, or end up with a dead battery, they might suffer from panic attacks, dizziness, tachycardia, and shortness of breath.
How to get away from living with a built-in cell phone and enjoy real life
To recover from Nomophobia, like any addiction, it can be helpful to go through a detoxification process. It can start with simple common-sense rules, like turning off your phone at night, watching an entire movie without checking social media notifications, or eating lunch while leaving your phone aside.
"It's not about detoxing from technology, but rather learning how to use it," argues sociologist Francesco Mattioli, professor of social sciences at La Sapienza University in Rome. "It’s about knowing how to govern it without becoming its slave. Today's society often mixes these two ingredients, creating uncontrollable zombies. It’s essential that direct interaction, which is more complex and difficult to manage, isn’t progressively replaced by indirect interaction, which requires less commitment."
Here are ten tips from experts to overcome Nomophobia:
1. Dedicate yourself to physical activity, allowing you to regain contact with your surroundings and separate yourself from the virtual world.
2. Resist the instinct to obsessively check your cell phone.
3. Look up. Observe people and your surroundings without any filter.
4. Use all five senses, in as many ways possible.
5. "Go offline." Turn off your phone and take care of friends, family, work obligations… whatever interests you.
6. "Old but gold": Go back to using traditional tools like a wristwatch and alarm clock in order to free your head and hands of technology.
7. Get together with others. Getting to know others in-person, not behind a screen, is important. Set up a security code or remove apps that are addictive.
9. Use "batch processing" to do multiple tasks at once on your phone, so that you’ll have more time to devote to other things.
10. Keep your hands busy with a book, an ice cream cone, or a pen.