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Smartphone Addiction Isn't Just A Made-Up Phrase By Parents, Researchers Say It's A Real Issue

If you told someone 20 years ago that in 2020, there would be 3.5 billion smartphone users in the world, they might have called you a fool because the reach of mobile phones was unprecedented and they aren’t exactly affordable devices.

But fast-forward to 2019, in a study conducted by Pew Research Center, 76% of the adults in advanced economies will own a smartphone, while only 45% of the adults in emerging economies will own a smartphone.

So many phones! / Image Credit: Bankmycell

There are also 2.71 billion smartphone users worldwide, with 10 billion mobile phones being active and connected at the moment.

This means that most smartphone owners would have more than one device, and that rings true for me.

I have 2 mobile phones: one for daily use and one as a gaming device (it has no SIM card and only connects via Wi-Fi).

In another study back in 2014 made by Psychology Today, they mentioned 66% (that’s a whopping 2 out of 3) of people worldwide are addicted to their phones.

The term “nomophobia” was even Cambridge Dictionary’s word of 2018. Nomophobia is derived from (no) (mo)bile (pho)ne pho(bia).

The dictionary defines the word as the “fear or worry at the idea of being without your mobile phone or unable to use it.”

This article on TechJury further highlights other scary statistics: an average user unlocks their phones 150 times a day, while a heavy user will tap on their phone at least 5,427 times a day.

Are We Panicking For Nothing?

The truth is, I believe I do not have nomophobia as I can easily live without my phone—because I have my computer. I’ve survived without a mobile phone before (3 weeks) so I think I can manage without one.

If you were to throw me into a new city without my phone and expect me to get somewhere then that might be an issue.

Being a writer, I have to be connected to the internet most of the time for work. But when I don’t have to, I can easily disconnect from my mobile phone.

When you want to talk to family members who live far away, you call them up. We use phones to kill time by playing games or listening to music, and even to distract kids from causing a ruckus.

I understand that phones have become so integrated with our lives that it seems impossible to let them go. Our banks, wallets, and even passports are on our phones. Whenever you meet someone new, the second thing you get after their name is their phone number.

In my personal opinion, I do believe we should worry when we use our phones excessively outside of what we actually need them for—in other words, when our excessive phone usage disrupts our quality of life.

Scrolling through Instagram / Image Credit: Leon Seibert

I’m sure you’ve seen instances of kids being glued to mobile phones and crying when they can’t have them, or socialites who can’t seem to put their phones down throughout the day, posting pictures non-stop to Instagram.

Solutions Going Forward

Well, if you realise that you have nomophobia and are looking for some ways to go about it, here are some tips for you. Most might be obvious, but it’s a good start if you want to break the habit.

1. The Irony Of Using Apps

While using apps might sound a little counter-intuitive (you’re supposed to distance yourself), some might actually help you.

I recently posted an article about apps that can help you with time management. Forest is one of many apps in the app store that works by setting a timer to make the user focus on their current task.

When you leave the Forest app running in the background and avoid active usage of your phone, it plants a tree for the duration of the timer. If you interact with your phone before the timer is up, the tree dies.

It’s not the most efficient app to keep you away from your phone as there are still many workarounds to it and for it to work properly you need self-discipline.

Offtime stopped me from accessing my WhatsApp

A friend of mine actually suggested another app called Offtime. It requires a minute of setup time, but otherwise, Offtime is pretty straightforward and definitely helps with nomophobia.

All you need to do is turn it on and it will try to restrict your access to your mobile phone. You can enable the usage of certain apps even with Offtime enabled, but if you try to open other apps, it will forcefully close said app and warn you that you’re getting distracted. 

2. Disconnecting Oneself

Another piece of advice that you can see coming a mile away—simply disconnecting. There’re many ways for one to disconnect.

Leave your phone at home when you go for a walk, go for a holiday without an internet connection, or spend a week in a cabin in the woods without your phone.

The easiest first step is to take a walk without your phone. If you live in a relatively safe neighbourhood, this is an option that can benefit you in a few ways. One, you’re getting exercise. Two, you’re away from the distractions of your phone.

Going on a trip without your phone could spell disaster, but if you plan ahead, it won’t really change how your trip works. You can still travel with a printed boarding pass, a digital camera and a physical wallet. 

If you ask me, it sounds ideal as you can focus on your surroundings or your significant other during the trip. The bragging can always be done when you are back at home.

Would you really want to spend all that money to go to a picturesque location only to spend all your time there snapping pictures to show off on Instagram?

3. Exploring Things Around You

Most of the time, we are satisfied with just staying in an air-conditioned room rather than taking a walk and check what’s around us.

Regardless of whether it’s that cute coffee shop around the corner or that swanky bar, there are plenty of places to check out and activities to do within our immediate surroundings that don’t require the use of a phone.

You can still take pictures without your phone. / Image Credit: Tyler Nix

Of course, it means you won’t be able to snap pictures of your coffee with meticulous latte art or get the number of that hottie in the bar. That can easily be solved with a camera and a pen.

Being an introvert, I’d rather do the former. Sitting down and chilling at a coffee shop sounds lovely.

Even if you choose to forego leaving the house, you could just turn on some music and do some cleaning. We all know the house needs some TLC.

4. Books Are Your Friend

A solid, physical book as your companion is as easy as it comes. It’s battery-free, no notifications will pop up to distract you as you read, turning pages rhythmically is pleasant, and it can even increase your vocabulary. 

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With 66% of the world addicted to their phones, nomophobia should not be taken lightly, especially for the younger generation.

To make matters worse, kids are being trained from young to look to devices for social fulfillment as parents are becoming more dependent on smartphones to distract their children.

We could argue that kids can have their access to a mobile device restricted, but what can we do about the teens and adults?

Maybe nomophobia isn’t something that I should be worried about because it is the norm now, especially with the advancement of technology where everything can be done on your phone.

However, I would say that ever since stopping and distancing myself from my phone, I found myself looking around at my surroundings more rather than just looking down at a screen.

  • You can read about our review on time management apps here.

 

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