If you are addicted to your smartphone, you may well be suffering from nomophobia (no mobile phone phobia). That simply means you are scared of the thought of being without your smartphone. How will you stay in contact with your friends and other contacts, read emails, check on your kids, and so on? Panic begins to set in.
How do you know if you have this phobia and how severe is it? Researchers at Iowa State University were determined to find out. They came up with a very handy 20-question quiz. Just do the quiz here and scroll down to check your scores. If you score less than 20, you are not at all nomophobic. If you score over 100, then it may be time to admit you have a problem and may need a digital detox.
How serious is this problem?
Some experts believe that naming smartphone addiction and labelling it as a phobia is exaggerated. One of these critics is Robert Weiss, director of the Sexual Recovery Institute in Santa Monica, California. He says, “[There’s] a lot of fear of technology, fear that [mobile devices are] going to hurt our youth, fear that we are not going to be able to keep up. And I think that it is all a bunch of crap.”
However, there is plenty of research which shows that smartphone addiction is interfering with people’s lives. It is affecting their mental and physical health. The 2013 Mobile Consumer Habits Report reveals some pretty shocking statistics. The smartphone seems to be increasingly present (10%) in the bedroom, during sex and in the shower. The most alarming one is that 50% of people are using them while driving and managing to get away with it.
Talk about digital baggage! Studies show that you may get “text neck” from all that texting. Sleep is disturbed and one survey shows that 44% of people sleep with their smartphones next to them. The most alarming figure is that about two thirds of users are constantly checking their phones, even when it is not ringing or vibrating.
How to take a break from your smartphone
Smartphones are here to stay. They are a fabulous resource and they make life easier and more entertaining. But there is no need to become a zombie. Here are some practical steps you can take to make sure that you staying in touch with the real world and the people in it, especially if your score on the quiz puts you in the high-risk category. Here are 5 ways to help you break your habit.
1. Turn off all non-essential notifications
When you are kept in the loop and get a buzz for every retweet, What’s App message, or Instagram like, then you are wasting a lot of time. Already, your social media is pulling you away from reality. Turn off all the notifications you do not really need.
2. Start talking again
Ever watched a family or group of friends in a restaurant where they are all on their smartphones and nobody is talking to each other or really connecting? Now that is sad! The only way to reconnect with the people that matter is to put your phone away and start communicating in the good old-fashioned way. Try face to face. It never needs a battery recharge.
3. Think about what is really going on
Try to reflect on why you are checking compulsively all the time. It could be anxiety, loneliness, or boredom. Why not try to address these issues and spend time more productively, by staying on task, reading a book, listening to music, or going for a walk (leaving the smartphone at home, of course).
4. Remember: you don’t have to answer every call, beep, or message
The world will not end if you do not check your phone immediately, right? Again, you can turn off all these alerts if you cannot bear to turn your smartphone off altogether for a few hours. Ideally, we only need to check our phones a few times a day, but most people check their phones at least 35 times daily!
5. Use an app to cure your addiction
If you cannot apply any of the above four methods, there’s an app for that! It’s a bit ironic, but using fire to fight fire makes perfect sense when we have the technology. If you want a gentle nudge, StayOnTask (Android) is excellent because it simply asks you at random intervals whether you are still on task. Great for keeping focused and helping you to meet deadlines. BreakFree takes a tougher approach in that it tracks all your usage, from looking at the screen to your total usage every day. It can give you an addiction score and that is great for reaching any goals you have set. Offtime (iOS, Android) might appeal to you if you are addicted to Facebook, games, and emails. It can block all those but leave the channels open for any communication from the family, boss, or your significant other.
Now, where did I put my smartphone? Help!
Featured photo credit: Keuls smartphone terras/ David van der Mark via flickr.com