The Rise Of Nomophobia

Phone separation anxiety grows stronger amidst Covid-19 pandemic

Even if you haven’t heard of nomophobia, chances are you’ve experienced it at some point, as this fear of being without one’s cell phone is on the rise globally.

According to KLIKD psychologist, Pam Tudin-Buchalter, phone separation anxiety (PSA), or nomophobia (which takes its name from No Mobile Phone Phobia), is caused by not having your phone to hand or being able to answer or charge it straight away. “In essence, it’s not so much about being separated from one’s phone as it is about missing out. Missing out on updates, news, the ability to connect to others, and even the ability to reject others,” she says. 

While this phenomenon has been a topic of discussion for some time already, experts have predicted that it would only grow stronger in the future as technology becomes increasingly personalized. Keegan Peffer, CEO of mobile rental power provider Adoozy, isn’t surprised that the condition is flourishing since their user data is showing that individuals are renting out their on-the-go mobile phone power banks  on average of once a day. 

“People were already attached to their cell phones before the pandemic. Since then, our phones really have become a lifeline, helping us to maintain contact when lockdown kept us physically separate from those we love and made it possible for us to work remotely. Our phones have also become a fundamental part of our identity and how we capture our lives and memories,” says Peffer.

According to the 2022 statistics published on techjury, smartphone users are spending an average of 2 hours and 51 minutes on their device each day, and in 2021 users checked their phone up to 58 times a day. 

Battery anxiety is influencing how we work 

Peffer maintains that, given our continuing energy supply issues, nomophobia – and especially battery anxiety – is likely to rise for South Africans. The mobile rental power provider is currently undertaking local research in this area and says that international studies already indicate an upward curve in PSA, which is influencing how people choose to work. 

One study revealed that one in three Americans have said that they would prefer to work from home because they are not sure how a new office setup will affect their ability to stay powered. Almost half of those surveyed (46%) say that access to reliable power to charge their device from anywhere is a key consideration when seeking a new remote job, and three out of five adults already working remotely say that portable power chargers are extremely important for their productivity. The angst around a lack of power is understandable, given that nearly two in five Americans have missed a deadline due to a dead device.

According to 2019 research published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, more than 53% of British people who owned a phone reported feeling anxious if they found themselves without battery, out of service, or if they had left it at home – “and that was back in 2008 before phones had become an even more integral part of our lives,” Peffer points out. 

Tips to beat the battery blues 

While nomophobia may sound like an exaggerated reaction to a small problem, at its root are some serious concerns, including the fear of being isolated or unable to connect, or communicate, with others. Typical symptoms include panic, agitation, and anxiety if you are not able to look at your phone. As with other phobias, sufferers may experience trouble breathing, a tight chest, rapid heartbeat, trembling, or even dizziness. 

“While no one is decrying the seriousness of this challenge, there are fortunately several ways to ensure you are not impacted by this issue,” Peffer says. He offers the following tips to lessen the impact of nomophobia:

  • Download an app that will help you track loadshedding in your area. This will ensure you can charge up before your power goes out.
  • Opt for full silence mode rather than vibrate. Vibrations actually require more power than your usual ring tone, so putting your phone on complete silence will optimise battery usage.
  • If you’re in a room with good lighting, dim the brightness levels on your phone. You can also use the auto-brightness setting that adjusts a phone brightness to what’s optimal.
  • Buy or rent a portable power bank and keep it fully charged, so that you are prepared when your battery dies – even if a power point isn’t readily available. Adoozy now offers portable power towers across Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban for people on-the-go to charge their phones.
  • Check your background ‘app refresh’ settings and toggle off any apps that are consuming too much power.
  • Reduce your screen time display, which is the time your phone sits in idle after use. 
  • End a charge at 80-90% and avoid full cycle (100%) or overnight charging.
  • Avoid exposing your phone to temperatures higher than 35° C as this can lead to permanent battery damage. 
  • Turn off notifications. If you’re constantly receiving email, Facebook, Instagram notifications etc, you’re not allowing your phone time to ‘sleep.’ 
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