You’ll see it in almost any setting—people staring down at a device in their hands instead of experiencing the world around them. Our cell phones have become the center of our universe, commanding our eyes and attention away from real world events. Cell phones are amazing inventions. Within minutes we can ask Siri the answer to any question and get information on where we’re going, what we’ll see when we get there, how many of our friends have been there, and what thousands of other people thought of the experience. There is a world of information available to us right at our fingertips. This technology has not only made us attached to our phones, it’s made us dependent on our phones. This immediate access to information is affecting our brains. It has become a trigger that causes neurons to fire that release dopamine. Over time, this creates a desire for that immediate gratification that can only be satisfied by using our phones. Prestigious universities are now doing studies regarding this phenomenon. One such study found that smartphones are so central to our lives, essentially becoming an extension of our “selves,” that being separated from them for any length of time can put people into a high state of anxiety called Nomophobia, or no-mobile-phone-phobia. This study found that as we become more and more reliant upon our smartphones to be the recorder of our daily lives—from getting directions, keeping our calendars, answering questions we have about the world around us, and then sharing all of these activities on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—that for many people, these actions have become a key part of their life experience and in turn the primary way they recall an event. “As smartphones evoke more personal memories, users extend more of their identity onto them,” said Dr. Ki Joon Kim, of the City University of Hong Kong. “When users perceive smartphones as their extended selves, they are more likely to become attached to the devices, which, in turn, leads to nomophobia by heightening the phone proximity-seeking tendency,” he added. The concern is that as technology delivers more and more personalized experiences, it will become easier to record our lives on our smartphones and we will become more dependent on these devices and less engaged in the real world around us. And nomophobia will become an increasing problem, especially for the younger generations. As technology continues to be fine-tuned to our wants and desires, it’s going to be increasingly important to guard against becoming overly dependent on our smartphones, while still taking advantage of technology and all the wonder it has to offer. We need to maintain a balance in our lives between the technological world and the real world to avoid falling victim to nomophobia.
Some Suggestions for a More Balanced Approach Would Include:
- Take time each day to turn off the screen and have real, human interaction. For every hour you invest in screen time, invest one hour in actual human contact.
- Try a technology fast every month where you go for a day or two without technology. It’s actually liberating!
- Place your phone away from your sleeping area at night. Another room is preferable.