Mobile phones are essential to our daily lives, they started as an “away from home” communication device and have become our daily planners; our music players; and in some cases, the very heartbeat of our social lives. With these devices so integral to our lives, it is no surprise that people have developed psychological attachments to them.
Nomophobia, short for “no-mobile-phone phobia”, describes the fear or anxiety felt when being without one’s mobile phone. Coined by the UK post office in 2010, nomophobia is said to be a rising global phenomenon that has similar effects to other types of addiction.
According to Dr. David Greenfield, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, the attachment to your smartphone is similar to other addictions because it involves a disruption of dopamine; a chemical that motivates people to do things for reward.
In an interview with the Business Insider, Greenfield stated that receiving a notification on your phone causes a release of dopamine which triggers a compelling desire to check what the notification is. “The thing is you don’t know what it’s going to be or when you’re going to get it, and that’s what compels the brain to keep checking. It’s like the world’s smallest slot machine.” Says Greenfield.
While Greenfield’s statements have not yet been proven as fact, it is important to remain aware of some of the signs associated with nomophobia. Some of which include feelings of anxiety when you misplace your phone; feelings of panic when your phone has no battery or connection; and feeling compelled to check your phone constantly.
If you feel that you, or someone you know, may have nomophobia, we would like to give you a few tips on how to reduce cell phone dependence:
1. Create a dedicated time in your day that can be used for all your networking and posting.
2. Designate activities where the use of cellphones is forbidden. For example, while driving, during meetings or during meal times.
3. If you are a parent, be sure to talk to your children about the dangers of cellphone dependence. Encourage face-to-face interaction on a daily-basis and ensure that their use of technology is healthy and balanced.
4. Try a digital detox. Unplug for a few hours and use the time to invest in a new hobby or activity. Practicing a digital detox in your household is also a good way to ensure that your children don’t develop any unwanted dependencies later on in life.