How would you feel if you were suddenly without your smartphone? Adrift? Panicked? Relieved?
Today's phones allow us to connect in ways we never could before. Not only do they keep us in touch with family and friends, but there are apps seemingly for everything under the sun. For the health conscious, these include quitting smoking and weight loss.
But people can become over-reliant on their phones. Some people have even developed a strong fear of being without their phone — nomophobia. It's not an addiction, just a fear. But when it becomes strong enough to disrupt someone's daily life, it's a problem.
There's no pill to treat nomophobia, but there is a National Day of Unplugging.
How accurately do the following statements sum up your feelings?
Use a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 meaning “strongly disagree” and 7 meaning “strongly agree.”
Your total score is obtained by adding up the individual responses to all 20 questions. You can check your score at the end of this article.
1. I would feel uncomfortable without constant access to information through my smartphone.
3. Being unable to get the news (e.g., happenings, weather, etc.) on my smartphone would make me nervous.
People say that they would feel naked if they didn't have their phone with them.
4. I would be annoyed if I could not use my smartphone and/or its capabilities when I wanted to do so.
5. Running out of battery in my smartphone would scare me.
7. If I did not have a data signal or could not connect to Wi-Fi, then I would constantly check to see if I had a signal or could find a Wi-Fi network.
8. If I could not use my smartphone, I would be afraid of getting stranded somewhere.
9. If I could not check my smartphone for a while, I would feel a desire to check it.
If I did not have my smartphone with me:
1. I would feel anxious because I could not instantly communicate with my family and/or friends.
2. I would be worried because my family and/or friends could not reach me.
3. I would feel nervous because I would not be able to receive text messages and calls.
4. I would be anxious because I could not keep in touch with my family and/or friends.
5. I would be nervous because I could not know if someone had tried to get a hold of me.
6. I would feel anxious because my constant connection to my family and friends would be broken.
7. I would be nervous because I would be disconnected from my online identity.
8. I would be uncomfortable because I could not stay up-to-date with social media and online networks.
9. I would feel awkward because I could not check my notifications for updates from my connections and online networks.
10. I would feel anxious because I could not check my email messages.
11. I would feel weird because I would not know what to do.
Caglar Yildirim does research on the impact of mobile devices on human thought, behavior and learning. In the course of his work he was surprised how often he heard people say that they would feel naked if they didn't have their phone with them.
It was comments like these that led Yildirim to develop the 20-item questionnaire above. It is designed to measure just how deeply a person fears separation from their phone and has been validated by testing on undergraduate students. It appears to give accurate results.
Recognizing the problem is just the first step. Now he and his Iowa State University colleagues want to determine if certain people are more prone to nomophobia than others. They are particularly interested in the role that age and gender play.
If I were to run out of credits or hit my monthly data limit, I would panic.
Some people may be surprised at just how dependent they have become on their phones.
There's no pill to treat nomophobia, but there is a National Day of Unplugging. The next scheduled one is on March 4, 2016.
In the meantime, there's no reason you can't spend a day unplugged to see how dependent you have become.
The study appears in Computers in Human Behavior.