Cell phone dependence sparks “nomophobia” epidemic

That familiar feeling of panic that accompanies the frantic search for a missing cell phone now has a name: “Nomophobia.”  

If you tend to compulsively check your phone for new messages, and grow fearful when your cell phone is not at hand, then you might be part of the growing population that suffers from nomophobia, or “no mobile-phone phobia.”


A recent study by SecurEnvoy, an internet security firm, found that two-thirds of the 1,000 people questioned were afflicted by nomophobia.


“SecurEnvoy concluded that people value and manage their mobile phones more so than a token; to the point that many of us do suffer with nomophobia—the anxiety of being away from your mobile,” according to the company’s website.


The study also found that nomophobia primarily affects younger people.


“I think people freak out when their phones are missing because they are so expensive,” says Santa Monica College freshman Ivette Ocampo. “It’s like walking around with $300 in your pocket. Of course people are going to check to see if they’ve been robbed. It’s a real liability, having a phone.”


“But I do think that people are becoming a little too dependent on their phones,” says Ocampo. “We live in a technological era, and I believe that in some ways, it’s a bad thing. I see kids that are so spaced out because they don’t do anything but use their phones. They don’t engage in their natural surroundings like they should.”


Other people believe that cell phones are more of an asset than a liability.


“I’d be completely lost without my phone,” says Wendy Andrade, a 20-year-old SMC student. “I’d feel like I was disconnected from the world. It keeps me connected to all my friends. I can text, Facebook, IM, and even tweet. On top of that, it has my schedule, my music, and all my important contacts.”


Although mobile phones have made it easier to keep in contact with people, some argue that they create an inverse effect on direct human contact.


“Our evolved human nature is to be social, and cell phones are a technological advancement that helps us become more social in an indirect way,” says SMC psychology professor David Phillips. “But sometimes I see people at dinner together, using their phones, not even paying attention to the person right in front of them.”


Cell phones have the potential to be a helpful tool, but also may create distractions.


“The majority of cell phone use by an average college student is completely frivolous in nature, and not productive at all,” says Phillips. “This distracts people from possibly doing other things that could be a whole lot more productive.”


Psychology experts like Phillips commonly advise cell phone users to utilize their devices intermittently, so as not to become dependent.


“There is definitely a balance in the way one uses their phone,” says Phillips. “I believe that you could turn your phone on for an hour in the mornings, turn it back off, then go and check it again in the evening.”