No more gadgets, or how to deal with nomophobia?

      • Jul 23, 2019

        How does the modern man start his morning? Not always with hygienic procedures, for many people pick up a smartphone as soon as they open their eyes to check for notifications. How does the evening end? Of course, by studying “important” news on a smartphone screen.

        It is difficult to imagine a world without tablets and phones, but when one’s sense of proportion disappears, gadgets with access to the Internet provoke the development of severe psychological dependence called nomophobia. It is time to get off the hook of your smartphone if it has become your “personal drug” to such an extent that the real world seems unfriendly. This article will discuss important issues including the danger of smartphone addiction, and ways to deal with it.


What is smartphone addiction?

“I’m 22 years old. I have been actively using social networks for about 5 years — I am registered on many sites. I have hundreds of friends, regularly create my own posts, and read other people’s. Recently, I realized that dependence on social networks not only hinders me but makes life very difficult. My problems encompass my studies at the university and my relationship with my boyfriend. When I urgently need to do coursework, I cannot “unstick” from the phone. My boyfriend is offended that I’m just concerned with the constant posting of beautiful shots on my social network.

The saddest thing is that I have lost the need for real communication. I have become too lazy to meet with friends, to go somewhere for the weekend and visit interesting places. It scares me. I’m unhappy with myself and my life. I know I’m in trouble, but I don’t know how to get rid of the addiction. I can’t just delete all my social media accounts – that’s where my whole life is.”

– Ekaterina, 22 y.o.

Nomophobia is the fear of being left without a mobile phone even for a short time. The term “nomophobia” was first used by YouGov, a UK research firm, in 2008. Sociologists then surveyed 2,000 people to find out what level of stress a modern person experiences without a phone. The data was depressing, with about 53% of smartphone users admitting to worrying when they remain “out of the reach” for one reason or another. [1]

The problem of smartphone dependence is relevant for all developed countries. Whether it is online games, news, social networks or online shopping, if at some point you can’t tell yourself “stop,” then entertainment that may seem harmless become a psychological disease.

According to sociological studies, the average person spends about 3 hours a day with their smartphone. Scientists believe that men are more prone to nomophobia than women. Experts are particularly concerned about the fact that children are appearing among the gadget-addicts in increasing numbers. [2]

Causes of nomophobia

The causes of nomophobia are not related to the phone as such. A phone is merely an electronic device with a set of functions. Psychologists explain the dependence on gadgets by the appearance of personal problems.

What can trigger the development of nomophobia?

  1. Fear of being lonely

A smartphone is the source of much information and a quick way to stay in touch with friends and family. When a person for one reason or another does not have their phone at hand, he/she feels isolated from the world. For many, this turns out to be a terrible ordeal, because they are used to being aware of everything that is happening around them. In “isolation” they have to think about really important things and immerse themselves in their own thoughts. This may not be the most pleasant activity for a person with serious personal problems.

  1. Striving to be needed

In the online world, a post could be anyone under the guise of a beautiful user pic or a daring nick. It could be anyone – a successful businessman, a fatal beauty, or a young rebel. The smartphone becomes an outlet for those who find it difficult to build relationships with people in reality. In social networks and forums a shy person often feels necessary and meaningful and gets what he/she is deprived of in everyday life. When reality does not bring pleasure, it can be replaced by virtual entertainment.

  1. Inability to “properly” relax

A lack of hobbies, an inability or unwillingness to actively relax, and frequent procrastination significantly accelerate the pace of nomophobia development. To somehow “kill” free time, a person will spend it with a smartphone in their hands. It is not surprising to discover that reading news, gaming and social communication deliver more positive emotions than boring real life.

How does the problem manifest itself?

The main sign of nomophobia can be observed when the smartphone becomes the eternal companion of a person. The phone is always in your hands — at work, at home, during meetings with friends and when taking part in outdoor activities. The gadget turns into one’s best friend and advisor in important matters, and a source of information and entertainment.

How does a typical addict behave?

  • He/she often changes gadgets, trying to use only new models;
  • He/she constantly keeps hold of the phone;
  • He/she checks e-mails with manic persistence and visits social networks dozens of times a day;
  • He/she stays in touch even late at night;
  • He/she constantly monitors the level of charge of the phone.
  • He/she starts and ends the day with a smartphone;
  • He/she is constantly afraid, that the smartphone will fail at the most important moment and will  suddenly turn off or have no coverage.
    [2] [2]

Signs of smartphone addiction are exacerbated when a person loses access to the gadget for one reason or another. Psychologists compare this with alcoholism and drug addiction. Being deprived of a smartphone is like being deprived of alcohol and causes an acute withdrawal syndrome. The person gets into an agitated state and becomes irritated and fidgety. For a while, the addict can lose control, and become aggressive towards others, trying to find the gadget in a panic. In particularly difficult cases, the withdrawal syndrome is also expressed by dizziness, increased sweating, faster heartbeat, and tremor of the limbs. [3]

Smartphone dependency test

Having an advanced gadget does not mean that the person is addicted. Problems only appear when the phone becomes the only source of positive emotion.

Take the nomophobia test to see if there is a cause for concern. Answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions. Each positive statement gives you 1 point. [1]

  1. You always carry your phone with you (even going to the toilet and taking a bath or shower is not a “real reason” to part with your mobile device).
  2. You’d rather dig into your phone than communicate with real people.
  3. If you don’t have a telephone at hand, you are nervous.
  4. At night, you always leave the phone at the head of the bed.
  5. Waking up in the morning, you immediately pick up the phone to check notifications, go to social networks, and read e-mails.
  6. You do not like to visit places where you need to turn off your phone (concerts, theater, and movies).
  7. You don’t remember any important information (phone numbers, addresses, and birthdays) but keep such data on your mobile device.
  8. You’ve begun to notice that you do not remember information well.
  9. You envy people who can change smartphone models often.
  10. You always come home if you find that you have forgotten your phone.
  11. You never resent the money spent for a new phone (you can even take a loan from the bank for this purpose).
  12. You fall into a deep depression if the phone fails or breaks down.
  13. You have more virtual friends – those with whom you communicate only in chat rooms – than real ones.

Now count the points. The test results can be interpreted as follows:

Less than 4 points. Owning smartphone has not made you forget that there are more interesting things in real life than in the virtual world.

5-9 points. You are already “on the hook” of your smartphone. This is a reason to be more attentive to your pastimes. Try to give preference to the real world, not the virtual one.

More than 10 points. We are talking about a serious addiction. What should you do? It’s time to radically rethink your habits and change the way you behave.

Children, teens, and adults: features of nomophobia

“My son is 12. Recently, we bought him a new-fashioned smartphone (previously he used a regular phone). And now I no longer recognize my boy. His phone is always with him — when he wakes up in the morning, in the evening before going to bed, eating and even in the toilet. As soon as he arrives from school, he picks up his phone and spends all evening playing or watching videos. He does his homework only when I remind him and tries to finish as soon as possible in order to quickly pick up his phone again. I fight with him about it, but nothing helps. I realize that my child has become addicted to his phone, and I don’t know what to do.”

– Marina, mother of 12-year-old Igor

Nomophobia can manifest itself at different ages. In each age group, dependence has its own peculiarities.

Studies by psychologists show that young people are more prone to the smartphone addiction. Of those aged 18-24, 77% have symptoms of smartphone addiction. Among 25-34-year-old respondents, the figure is slightly lower – 68% are potential nomophobes.

Nomophobia in children

Many children grow familiar with gadgets by the age of 3. Such a child may not have learned to talk well, but already easily deals with a modern phone. A large number of first graders already have a smartphone with Internet access. The dependence on the phone in children progresses much faster due to their still unformed psyche.

This trend is very worrying for psychologists. A child under 7 years old must  develop actively and discover the world around, and not constantly look at a smartphone screen. A school child should spend free time with peers or  playing sports rather than at home with a phone in his hands. Nomophobia “inhibits” the normal development of the child. The child becomes restless, anxious, and irritable. He/she will assimilate information poorly, and lose all interest in the outside world. [4]

Parents are often to blame for the development of “children’s” nomophobia. Whilst not having the time or desire to give the child enough attention, they pass this “function” on to numerous gadgets. It’s easier to give the child a smartphone than to offer games to captivate an active child. But later, however, you will have to put a lot of effort in to save the child from addiction to the phone and the Internet.

Nomophobia in teenagers

Teenage maximalism is manifested literally in everything, including the use of gadgets.

The smartphone addiction in teenagers can run wild — they are likely to register in many social networks, play games, subscribe to dozens of public forums, comment at every step in their account, and be constantly “on-line” in chat rooms. All these are symptoms of nomophobia.

Often shy children, who find it difficult to establish communication with their peers, immerse themselves in the online world. They can fully express themselves and make friends in social networks and forums under fictitious nicknames. Also, the virtual world is the easiest way for a teenager to get away from existing problems (in the family or at school). If experiencing stress, the child may try at least to get positive emotions “online.”

Children aged 12-16 are very scrupulous in their struggles for personal space. Tough measures on the part of parents who want to overcome the mobile dependence of the teenager, depriving them of their favorite gadget, can therefore be perceived as a real betrayal. In such cases, it is essential to take a thoughtful approach to preventing nomophobia, so as not to destroy parent/child relationships.

Nomophobia in adults

It seems that an adult, unlike a child, is fully aware of what he/she is doing. Adults understand the harmful effects of bad habits. But even adults sometimes plunge headlong into the virtual world, making the smartphone their eternal life partner.

The main problem of smartphone addiction in adults is that many nomophobes do not admit to the truth that they have become addicted to their smartphone. The person thinks that everything is under control, but in fact, it is not. At some point, everything changes and it turns out that it’s not the individual who owns the phone, but the phone that owns him/her.

The smartphone and Internet addiction in adults is an established behavior model. If you can’t overcome the habit yourself, you can use the 7Spsy behavior modification technique to help replace negative attitudes with positive ones and thus assimilate a healthy behavior model.

Why is it important to get rid of nomophobia?

The smartphone addiction affects all aspects of a person’s life. What negative consequences can it have?

An individual, constantly immersed in the virtual world, forgets about the real one. He/she does not communicate with “live” people, is limited in active rest, and productivity decreases.

The addict becomes more irritable, which undoubtedly affects both work and communication with loved ones. He/she sometimes cannot control actions — for example, recklessly spending an impressive amount of money to buy a new gadget.

Nomophobes don’t even turn off the sound on their cell phones at night. Constant signals from spam and news interfere with a good rest. Lack of sleep consequently increases anxiety and reduces productivity.

Many addicts, ceasing to control themselves, refuse to travel to places with “bad service” or where they will need to disable their device. These are serious limitations to an interesting daily life.

How to get rid of nomophobia?

The first step that will help to get rid of the smartphone addiction is to recognize that the problem really does exist. Psychology suggests that the following measures will help combat addiction.

  1. Record the time spent with the phone in your hands

To start fighting smartphone addiction, watch yourself. Record exactly how much time you spend with the phone in your hands.

Try to document your virtual activity — when and how much time has been spent on phone conversations, when and what sites were visited and how long you were connected to  social networks. At the end of the day, you will see the real scale of the “tragedy” and this will help you to be able to adjust how you spend your time with the smartphone. Besides, it will help to understand what exactly causes your wild desire to pick up a phone or go online — perhaps boredom or a sense of loneliness.

  1. Talk more to “real” people

If all your communication is correspondence with strangers in social networks and on forums, it is time to change your habits and make more real friends rather than virtual ones. This is a serious task for you since you will have to overcome the fear of interacting with others directly and learn to listen carefully to the person you are talking to, without being distracted by the phone.

Are you not ready to change so radically and make friends “in real life”? Then start simply. Next time, instead of texting someone you know, call them. This is the first small step to live communication, which will teach you not to become flustered when you are talking.

  1. Put your phone away

When the phone is always at hand, your attention is inevitably focused upon it. As a result, you become distracted from work or from communicating with loved ones. Make it a rule to keep your phone out of sight when you don’t need it. This way you will protect yourself from the temptation to check every minute if someone has called, or if there has been any “interesting” news.

In order not to miss an important call, just make the ring melody louder.

  1. Allocate a specific time for using your smartphone

To gradually combat nomophobia, allocate a limited amount of time in the morning, afternoon, and evening when you can check for messages and view mail on your smartphone. For example, start with half hour periods 4-5 times during the day. When the allotted time runs out, put the phone away and proceed with everyday activities. Later you can gradually reduce the time interval and allocate ten minute sessions. You will have to constantly suppress your desire to pick up the phone at other times.

“Time for gadgets” can become an important rule for parents whose children spend all their free time with a phone in their hands. Prohibitions do not always work, so it is better to negotiate with children. Allow the child have a strictly allotted time (no more than 1-2 hours a day) for games and entertainment with a smartphone. [4]

  1. Use silent mode

Short message signals distract from everyday tasks and will draw attention to a coveted phone. Use the silent mode, at least in those moments when you should be focused upon other activities.

At night, it is better to turn off the sound of the smartphone, so that nothing interferes with your sleep.

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique as the solution to the problem.

Nomophobia is a bad habit that needs to be corrected. Abandoning it should be methodical so that the phone stops stealing your precious time – time which can be spent to a much greater benefit. It is important to understand that you will not be alone if you spend less time online. It is this mobile dependence that indicates loneliness. How do you overcome dependence on the phone if self-improvement does not give a positive result?

In the fight against nomophobia, it is important to change the pattern of behavior that does not allow you to let go of the phone, and finally look at real color-rich life opportunities with unadulterated eyes. The 7Spsy behavior modification technique shows high efficiency in getting rid of bad habits. The program is based on the scientific theories of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, A.A.Ukhtomsky, etc.

As you complete the course, you will change the pathological pattern of behavior step by step. You will understand that real life is much more interesting than the virtual. Endless photos in social networks, news, and spam — all of this is not worth the huge amount of time that you spend with a smartphone in your hands. Training sessions will allow you to replace negative attitudes with the positive, and develop good habits. You will learn to communicate with real people, leaving the hundreds of strangers on forums and in chat rooms in your past. You will come to the understanding of the advantages of life without smartphone addiction.

During the course, the psychologist will answer all your questions, provide support and give valuable recommendations. Classes are held remotely. The experts may help you by phone, e-mail and through online chats. The training is designed for up to 6 weeks. Participation in the training is strictly confidential which is important for those who do not want to tell friends and colleagues about actively fighting their bad habits.

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