The Growing Problem Of Nomophobia

Nomophobia

I can barely remember a day when I didn’t have my phone on me. It’s my lifeline to the world, but as this trend grows, I’m seeing the downsides of our constant connectivity. In today’s world a buzzing smartphone takes priority over anything else going on in the room. If I’m having a face-to-face conversation with someone it should have priority, yet this doesn’t hold true for a number of my coworkers.

Whenever their phones buzz, they turn to see what’s happening. I would understand if they’re dealing with a business or family emergency, but with some people this is just standard behaviour. Whoever is interrupting via mobile has priority. I am sure these offenders don’t mean to insult me, but in reality, this kind of behavior is quite rude.

But I do mind. The other person was multitasking, but I was forced to wait, despite actually being in the room with them. And unfortunately this is becoming the new normal.

Addicted To Being Connected

Researchers have discovered that most people seem to have a latent addiction to multitasking and being connected. A report by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers revealed that the average person checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, according to ABC News. Assuming we’re awake for approximately 17 hours a day, that means we’re looking at our phones every 6.8 minutes! In a study of 1,600 managers and professionals, Leslie Perlow, the Konsuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School, found that:

  • 70% said they check their smartphone within an hour of getting up
  • 56% check their phone within an hour before going to sleep
  • 51% check continuously during vacation
  • 26% confessed to sleeping with their smartphones

I was surprised to see that more than a quarter of these people slept with their phones. But it gets better: Research from Pew Internet Group found that 44 percent of all cell phone owners have slept with their phone next to their bed, and 90 percent of 18 to 29 year olds sleep with their phones!

Less Is More

Around-the-clock reliance on mobile devices is now a recognised problem. It even has a name: nomophobia – a condition that causes individuals to feel anxious when they have no access to mobile technology. While the word may make people smirk, it’s no laughing matter, and I confess to feeling a bit uneasy if I accidentally leave my phone at home for the day.

Rehab and recovery centres are popping up across the globe to treat the psychological, social and physical issues that come with cell phone addiction. Even executives from major technology brands such as Facebook and Google are concerned, and are participating in conferences focused on finding a balance in your digital life, according to The New York Times.

I’m challenging myself and my coworkers to set mobile device parameters in order to reduce overall phone dependence, and hopefully improve face-to-face interactions between business associates, our friends, and our families.

Go offline: Start small – maybe a block of 20-30 minutes at a time. A great place to start is when you’re trying to get a project wrapped up – maybe a new business proposal or a slide deck. Resist the urge to check your phone until you’re done writing. Put it in a drawer on silent if needed.

Trust in the phone call: I know people who check their phone incessantly just in case it’s the client. Of course, there’s always a possibility that an email could come in – at any hour of the day. If it’s truly an emergency, they’ll call.

Get an actual alarm clock: Many people who sleep with, or next, to their phones do so because the phone acts as an alarm. Do yourself a favor and buy an old fashioned alarm clock. Otherwise, you’re waking up with your phone in hand and starting your workday before you’ve even climbed out of bed.

Being in constant contact with a mobile device doesn’t necessarily make us more productive, nor does it prove that we’re busy and important. What it proves is that we’re becoming a work force of distracted, digitally addicted professionals. Mobile devices can empower a workforce, but if we let it get in the way of actual work, we’re doing a disservice to the form factor. By putting the phone down for a just a few minutes, we can improve our work output and our personal connections.

Paul Steiner

Paul Steiner joined Accellion in 2001 as Senior Vice President-Europe. Prior to joining Accellion he held positions as Vice President of International-Europe at AboveNet Communications and Managing Director of Europe, Africa, Middle East and India for NetCom. As a management consultant with McKinsey, in Munich, Germany, Paul's clients included Daimler Benz, Europe’s largest copper refinery, and leading German firms in banking, insurance, retail and publishing. Paul also co-founded NETWAY in 1995, one of the first ISPs which grew to be the leading Austrian ISP before being sold to UTA/Tele 2 in 2001. Paul completed a PhD and MSc in Petroleum Engineering from Leoben Mining University, and an MBA from The University of Michigan.