According to a 2012 study outlined in the United Kingdom's Daily Mail, 66 percent of survey subjects were nomophobic, obsessed with having a cell phone with them at all times. When I first heard the word “nomophobia”, an abbreviation for no-mobile-phone-phobia, I laughed. Fear of being without a cell phone? Ridiculous! A quick look around prompted me to check my initial reaction, however. Everyone within an arm's reach of me was on a cell phone. What would happen, I wondered, if those cell phones were suddenly confiscated? A riot would ensue. A great, big nomophobic riot!
While talking on a cell phone about your new hair color, the latest movie, or your annoying boss is hardly necessary, having your cell phone with you at all times is not always a bad thing. When my sons were younger, knowing I was merely a phone call away from them was a great comfort to me. When my dad was hospitalized, carrying my phone with me on errands assured me of being available at a moment's notice, and when I helped a friend relocate to New Jersey, my cell phone kept me in constant touch with the realtor. I did not, however, need the phone. I wanted it with me; want and need are two different things. Am I, then, nomophobic? What are the symptoms of nomophobia?
The Daily Mail lists the symptoms of nomophobia as follows:
- An inability to turn your phone off. (That's not me! I turn my phone off every night. I do not want or need to be awakened during the night by the little bell signaling an incoming text. It's hard enough to fall back to sleep after getting up to go to the bathroom; I don't need a cell phone waking me up!)
- Obsessively checking for missed calls, emails, and texts. (Again, not me! My cell phone is programmed not to alert me to incoming emails or facebook postings.)
- Constantly topping up your battery life. (Uh oh! Guilty as charged, but not because I can't bear to be out-of-touch. My hand-me-down cell phone doesn't hold a charge for long; thus, I have a constant eye on the battery.)
- Being unable to pop into the bathroom without taking your phone along. (Uh...I never do that! Well, alright. I'll be honest. Yes, I have taken my cell phone into the bathroom with me. For argument's sake, let's consider texting in the bathroom multi-tasking, sort of killing two birds with one stone, if you know what I mean.)
My generation, I think, is less likely to be obsessed with cell phones, iPads, and any of the other fancy gadgets that have simultaneously connected and isolated society. I remember the days when the only way to contact someone was via a wall phone with a rotary dial, a princess phone in a pretty pastel color, or a public phone in a glass booth with a closing door. (If you're too young to know what a phone booth is, think Superman.) In my youth, it would have been nice to ring up a girlfriend from my backyard or call my mom to tell her I'd be late getting home from school, but I didn't suffer anxiety back then when I was out of touch for a while, and thankfully I don't panic now when I don't have my cell phone with me.
Oh, wait a minute. Does panicking when I think I've lost my cell phone qualify as nomophobia? Does that “Oh, my God! I can't find my cell phone! Where's my cell phone?? WHERE'S MY PHONE?!” reaction to not immediately finding my phone nomophobic behavior? Is putting my phone in a pink case so it can more easily be found nomophobic? Is keeping the phone on the kitchen counter while I cook nomophobic? Well, then, I might suffer just a wee bit from nomophobia. I guess we all do. This brave, new world we live in has created nomophobics, and until there's an app for that, we are all susceptible.