The allure of smartphones has become so powerful it has led to an epidemic – Nomophobia, or no-mobile-phone-phobia.
The irrational fear of being without a mobile device is now the largest phobia in the world, affecting an estimated 66 million people around the globe, according to Moodoff Day, an Australian smartphone addiction charity.
Smartphones provide instant gratification, have a build-in reward system, and offer a way to alleviate loneliness. The technology has given people the ability to interact with virtually anyone, anywhere in the world.
The fear of being without a mobile phone is characterised by feelings of anxiety, panic and desperation.
Nomophobia has multiple indicators - the fear of being without the smartphone; having no reception; or losing battery strength. Any of these elements have the ability to generate panic in the user and many individuals don’t even realise they’re nomophobic.
Designed to enhance communication, research has demonstrated that smartphones can do exactly the opposite. Smartphones provide a means of avoiding face-to-face encounters in real-time and make it easy to withdraw from human contact.
Moodoff Day says some mental health professionals are concerned that in addition to Nomophobia, smartphones are fostering self-absorption and a lack of respect for others, especially among younger people.
“Constant messages, texts and updates are used as a means of validation for users,” the company says. “It’s a form of narcissism that allows the individual to be the entire focus of any encounter rather than sharing the limelight with others in a normal social setting.”
It says mobile devices have become a socially acceptable means of ignoring others instead of engaging with them.
Moodoff Day is a non-profit organisation created to increase awareness of smartphone addiction and the risk of accidents, injuries and even deaths that have been associated with smartphone usage, think texting while driving.
Moodoff Day will hold its annual Morning Without Technology event on Sunday, Feb. 22. Now in its fourth year, the international event encourages individuals globally to turn off their mobile devices, particularly smartphones, for at least five hours and interact with people around them.
With smartphones becoming a steadily growing commonality in schools, they present as a double-edged sword. On the one hand they can assist in learning and scheduling, whilst on the other creating an impersonal and socially challenging element, leading in its extremes to cyber bullying and abuse.
“Moodoff Day encourages schools and their students to get behind the initiative and raise more awareness of Nomophobia and its social and societal impact.”
“Putting aside a smartphone for just five hours on Feb. 22, 2015 during the fourth annual Moodoff Day provides an opportunity to interact with loved ones and friends in a meaningful way,” Moodoff Days says.
“For those who wonder if they’re nomophobic, relinquishing the hold on their smartphone during Moodoff Day offers a potentially enlightening experience.”