Monday, March 17, 2014

Nomophobia aka No Mobile Phone Phobia


Nomophobia, or “No Mobile Phone Phobia” is a term that was created in 2008 when a UK online study found that 66% of their research group was terrified of being without their phones, and 77% of those were between 18-24. It is known to cause physical side effects like anxious feelings, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling or chest pain.  In a 2013 Australian study, 9 out of every 10 people aged under 30 admitted to suffering from nomophobia.




What does this mean for us? For our children? What can be done about this dependence on a digital device that could be creating intense anxiety along with attentional and focus issues. What happens when a student arrives at school without her phone? Will she be able to proceed with her day, or will she need to leave school to get her phone. Many teens and young adults admitted to going back home when they realized they forgot their phone, at the risk of being late for work or class. 
Some questions to ask yourself about nomophobia, and then your children:
  1. Do you feel anxious if your cellphone isn't nearby?
  2. Does just the thought of losing your phone make your heart pound?
  3. Do you keep an extra phone on hand in case your primary one breaks?
  4. Do you take your phone to bed with you, fearful of being away it?
If you answered yes to some of these questions, there are strategies for counteracting these symptoms, but it requires mindfulness and a desire to change the reactivity. The first thing to do is recognize when you are having these symptoms and apply a mindfulness practice such as STOP that I learned from Mary Ann Christie Burnside. Stop. Take a breath. Observe your physical sensations, your emotions and your thoughts. Proceed with a calmer, more aware mindset.

Some logistical things to do include carrying a power cord or charger with you, keeping a list of phone numbers in a place separate from your phone, and making sure your phone is currently backed up.

Other things you can do is prepare yourself to have less of a reaction when you don't have your phone.
  1. You can imagine being without the phone. Imaging helps prepare for the real situation.
  2. Start by turning the phone off once a week. Then increase the frequency and length of time the phone is shut off. 1 in 2 people admit to never turning their phones off.
  3. Leave your phone off or away from you for short amounts of time, and then build up to longer amounts of time.
  4. Technology Sabbaths and Digital Diets are lengthier amounts of time you can be without your cell phone, as well as other technology. This will be a separate entry.
I'm happy to report that I have noticed changes in my own nomophobia in the short two weeks that I've been experimenting with this process. I find it is easier to do these things when I tell my daughters there will be periods of time that I don't have my phone anymore. They are so used to instantaneous communication, I realized, because I was always with my phone, often interrupting other conversations with others and activities to respond to them. I have inadvertently created an urgency around parenting communication due to the 24/7 availability. 

So now:
  1. I leave my phone in the car when I run errands rather than carry it with me. 
  2. I leave it at home when I go to yoga.  
  3. I leave it in my bag when I research and write, applying a tech break every 30 minutes of so.
  4. I leave it in my purse on silent when I go out with friends at night.
  5. I leave it in the kitchen overnight.
These may seem very obvious to those less addicted to their digital device as I am, but I'm very happy to report that each day it gets easier to be less connected.

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