A daily bulletin of news & opinion

16 February 2012

It’s one of the world’s newest phobias; identified just four years ago. But, in that short time its numbers have significantly grown – at least according to a new survey by OnePoll, whose results are to be released today. Two in every three people in the UK now claim to suffer from nomophobia: the fear of being without their mobile phones. 

I must admit, I count myself among that number of clicking, scrolling, and swiping millions that spend our commutes, coffee breaks and spare time hopelessly devoted to our mobile devices. Having spent years fiercely opposing the need to app my way out of any situation, I’m no longer able to resist. But – “nomophobia”?

Experts have warned of the addictive qualities of mobile phones for years. What once seemed the peril of only the most work-obsessed of the Capitol Hill or Wall Street crowd, has now hit the mainstream.

Phone charging stations, which popped up in airports such as Singapore’s Changi hub in 2010, have also hit the high street. Topshop in Singapore has the service in-store. So you can now shop fully powered-up, ready to receive texts, emails and phone calls – thank God. Low battery means crippling anxiety for the so-called nomophobe. That power bar is like a barometer of happiness. 

Sure, mobile phones today can do so much more than they could 10 years ago, and are far more stylish. You can navigate a city, listen to the radio, or even organise a riot (so they say) anywhere you’d like. And, I must admit, I’ve solidified friendships via bonds formed over BlackBerry Messenger. 

However, as much as they enable, they can debilitate. There’s the story of the woman that had to stop taking the London Underground because she couldn’t bear to be without coverage. But, I don’t buy it.

Without wishing to sound like a purist, even the name of this addiction, nomophobia, suggests pop-hypochondria. There’s no Latin root here – the name is short for “No-Mobile-phobia”. And, I’d bet that those hit by a wave of nausea at the realisation their phone has been left at home are likely to be just as excessively anxious and maladjusted to begin with. 

So although we might really love our phones and easily wax nostalgic about our first model, while praising the virtues of multitudinous new functions, my diagnosis of nomophobia is that it’s about as serious a matter as logophobia. That’s the fear of words.


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