The fear of being without a phone is so prevalent it now has a clinical name, nomophobia, and the numbers of those afflicted is rising.
The study, commissioned by authentication-firm SecurEnvoy, found that 66 percent of the 1,000 people interviewed worry about being without a phone, up from just over 50 percent four years ago.
The news is not surprising, considering the increasing dependence on mobile gadgets for everything from GPS directions, weather reports, and social media to banking, texting, and games. A mobile device is a conduit not only to information, but to community, relationships and self-expression, and being without it causes anxiety and feelings of loss in many users.
Devices have become such constant companions that researchers from Chicago University’s Booth Business School, analyzing the urges of 205 adults based on their priorities, found social networking is more addicting than other addictive behaviors like smoking and drinking.
As the dependency increases, however, so does the fear and other emotional dynamics associated with constant connectivity. For example, a buzzing smartphone text announcing “Having dinner at fab bistro,” provides a real-time awareness of alternate happenings and increases FOMO, or the fear of missing out, leading to personal discontent that life isn’t as Facebook-fabulous as it should be.
The prevalence and immediacy of mobile gadgets with apps for Twitter, Facebook and other social media exacerbates FOMO. To go or not to go — that is the dilemma at the heart of this digital-induced crisis of confidence, illustrating the power and self-perpetuating nature of FOMO to stay on top of what everyone else is doing, sometimes to the point of social exhaustion.
Both nomophobia and FOMO underscore how mobile connections are the new ties that bind people together and reflect why they are so highly valued in the digital age.
The U.K. study also discovered that slightly more women suffer from the nomophobia than men, and the highest incidence of nomophobia is among the younger 18- to 24-year-olds, with 77 percent, showing nomophobia isn’t going anyway anytime soon.