Today’s Word — Nomophobia

Nomophobia, according to this story in the UK’s Evening Standard, the fear of being out of cell phone signal range, or of letting your phone die for lack of charge.

It’s all the rage:

More than 13million Britons fear being out of mobile phone contact, according to research.

Keeping in touch with friends or family is the main reason why they are so wedded to their mobile.

More than one in two said this is why they never switch it off.

One in ten said they needed to be contactable at all times because of their jobs, while 9 per cent said that having their phone switched off made them anxious.

Experts say nomophobia could affect up to 53 per cent of mobile phone users, with 48 per cent of women and 58 per cent of men questioned admitting to experiencing feelings of anxiety when they run out of battery or credit, lose their phone or have no network coverage.

The Post Office questioned more than 2,100 mobile phone users. Stewart Fox-Mills, the company’s telecom expert, said: “Nomophobia is all too real for many people.

Hi, my name is Todd, and I have nomophobia.

Hi Todd.

It seems strange to be so reliant on something that I lived without for the first 28 years of my life. I first bought a cell phone in 1998. We moved during the infamous US West, now Qwest, strike and were unable, for weeks, to get a land line hooked up. Consequently, our mobile addiction was born.

A decade after hauling that giant phone in its snappy, fashionable holster, I now have a slim BlackBerry that rings with phone calls and buzzes with e-mail. I never turn it off. I set its alarm so it wakes me up in the morning. If I have to wait in line for more than 30 seconds, I pull it from my pocket and begin tapping away. I’m a loser, I know.

It’s handy. If a column idea hits me, I thumb it in and save it before I forget. I make lists and read newspapers online. I’m not sure what I’d do without it.

The I found out. A few weeks back, when I went fishing north of Decorah, I found myself completely out of cell phone service range. No bars, no calls, no e-mails.

I felt the symptoms nomophobia. Cold sweats, restless thumbs.

For one thing, my wife was home with a child getting over the flu and I realized she couldn’t reach me easily to give me sniffle-by-sniffle updates. Second, NCAA selection Sunday was just hours away, and I couldn’t get instant score updates.

But I adapted. I survived. I remembered a little something known to our primitive ancestors as the “collect call.” And when I couldn’t reach my wife at home, I called my parents to relay a message. It all worked out fine, and once I had made contact with my tribe, the absence of beeping and ringing and buzzing was welcome.

As we departed Sunday and climbed upward on a hilly road, my pocket buzzed and beeped for the first time in 48 hours. It told me I had a voicemail message from my very annoyed wife back on Friday, wondering why I hadn’t called. I’m no expert, but it sounded like classic nomophobia.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Today’s Word — Nomophobia

  1. Peter

    I keep my cell phone turned off and locked in my glove box in my car. I only use it when I want to use it to call someone else which is almost never. The only reason I have it is because pay phones have almost disappeared. It’s not for someone else to use, it’s for me to use. No one has anything to say to me that I have to hear now. And I have nothing to say to anyone else that can’t wait. One of my favorite things to do is call my brother who is a cell phone junkie and say “Are you on the end of your leash?”

  2. MV

    The moral of the story: Never go to Decorah.

  3. Dr. Mum

    I used to work at the call centre of a well know mobile phone company on the late evening/small hours shift.
    Callers would ring in utterly beyond full on hysteria. They were not merely fretting. People ringing from abroad who might have forgotten something necessary to make payment credits, got into even worse states. We were instructed by the company suits not to give credits because the lowcomdenoms would abuse the system. The situation was very much complicated by data protection rulings as well. On occasion I would give credits (risking the sack or a 2000UK fine) and the relief at the other end of the phone was completely palpable, real and genuine.
    I recommend Phone Home Cards that can be used globally. Once my son who was surfing in Indonesia walked 24 hours to the only phone on the island to call me using this method. A few days before he had been in Bali and knew I would be worried. Peace of mind is worth it.

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