Conquering nomophobia

The fear of missing a phone call is just one of many modern-day ills. Learn to control it by using your cell phone wisely as opposed to letting it use you.

cellphoneblues521 (photo credit: MCT)
(photo credit: MCT)
The other day when in the gym, I observed one staff member requesting a young woman to stop speaking on her cell phone while she was exercising on the ski machine. A big sign stating this rule was clearly posted. Nevertheless, the lady was furious at the counselor for making the request and angrily left the exercise room to finish her conversation.
After my workout, I spoke to the counselor and another staff member and asked how often people get angry when asked to stop using their mobile phones while working out. The first guy stated that this happens all the time. I asked both guys why they thought people are so annoyed when asked to comply with the rule. The first staff member quickly blurted out “ego,” that is Israelis don’t like to be told what to do. The other guy agreed.
When I asked further if they thought that many people are addicted to their mobile phones and simply can’t take a break from them, they both thought about it and agreed. One guy continued, “People need to stay connected, all the time; they are afraid to miss a call.”
Today, everywhere you look people are talking into a mobile device. There is no question, however, mobile phones are a utility that have made our lives easier and in many instances more secure. How many times are you stuck in traffic or at the airport with a delayed flight and thanks to your mobile, you can notify someone what your status is.
Sometimes, these phones save lives, such as using it to quickly call emergency services after witnessing an accident. Getting directions from either a friend or GPS application is another use of mobile phones that improves our lives. We can make reservations to restaurants and order movie tickets and listen to music on cell phones. No doubt, this technology has improved our lives.
So, is there a downside? If we turn back to the woman who got angry when asked not to use her phone in a place clearly designated as a “phone free area,” we see a woman who couldn’t bear to be without her phone. Social scientists even have a name for this new social phenomenon – nomophobia, a fear of being without your mobile phone. Take the case of drivers. More and more accidents are happening because people are getting distracted by speaking on their phones or, worse yet, texting while driving. The police in the US have a new name for those texting while driving, “intexticated.”
Teens are among the biggest users of mobile phones. Some social scientists estimate that the average teenager sends nearly 3,000 texts a month. A study published in the December 2007 issue of the Journal of Family and Marriage states that increasing use of mobile phones could be linked to a decrease in family satisfaction and increased stress. This is because phones let people bring their work home and take personal issues to work.
IT’S TIME to break the habit a bit and start gaining control over these little technological devices.
• Turn off your cell phone while you are driving.
• Pick one evening a week that the cell phone goes off at dinner time and stays off until the next morning. Gradually increase the number of nights a week. (If you are worried about work calls, start with a Shabbat.) • Once a month participate in something outside where you will be surrounded by nature and you have to unplug from technology and the cell phone. For example, take a walk, hike or bike ride on a trail, beach or a natural space near you.
• Turn off your cell phone when you are in a meeting or having a meal with someone.
• Screen your calls and e-mails – don’t answer them all.
• Reserve blocks of time to respond to calls and messages according to what suits you.

The writer is a marital, child and adult psychotherapist practicing in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ra’anana.