Do you get irrationally anxious about losing your phone, running out of battery or being out of range? Maybe you suffer from nomophobia.
Cambridge Dictionary’s 2018 word of the year, ‘nomophobia’ is the fear of not having access to your mobile phone. Short for ‘no mobile phone phobia,’ the term has turned up in medical journals, and talk of classifying it as a psychological disorder has begun.
Symptoms can include excessive texting, constantly checking social media, trouble paying attention during everyday activities and/or high levels of anxiety at the thought of not being connected, missing out, or not having access to information.
But even if your mobile use has not reached obsessive levels, you might benefit from a little less time with it.
Experts say that while true smart phone addiction is rare, many of us may be experiencing negative side effects from being more engaged with our phones than our real life partners or other priorities.
Tips for disconnecting
If you think your phone or social media may be disrupting your productivity or relationships, or leaving you feeling less than stellar, your best bet may be to learn to manage it better, rather than lock yourself in a bunker and disconnect completely.
“Going completely cold turkey doesn’t appear as a particularly realistic option given the significant place technology has got in our everyday lives,” says Dr Daria Kuss of Nottingham Trent University, one of the most prolific researchers on the topic.
Fielding Graduate University professor of media psychology Pamela Rutledge agrees. In a recent article in Psychology Today, she argued that the same problems linked with social media—from wasting time to needing constant validation or comparing yourself to others— are bound to appear in other aspects of life—so it’s best to learn better coping strategies.
“Rather than avoid social media, it is more effective to identify behavioural problems and learn skills to address and manage them, such as goal setting, self-regulation, and self-control. Those skills are key life skills, transferable to other domains,” she writes.
Psychology researcher Dr Mark Griffiths, also of Nottingham Trent University, advocates for what he calls a 'digital detox' or a 'digital diet.' Again, the idea is to reduce your smart phone’s toll on your life without becoming a recluse.