The media has been buzzing lately about a recent mental health craze deemed ‘smartphone separation anxiety’. Smartphone separation anxiety, or nomophobia (no-mobile-phone-phobia), is the fear of being without a smartphone. Recent research has legitimized nomophobia as a real condition, suggesting that many people suffer from anxiety and even depression when being without their phones. I dug into the current nomophobia research and uncovered some interesting evidence.
There was a study conducted at the University of Hong Kong that attempted to assess young adult’s levels of nomophobia through a series of questionnaires. The resulting responses suggested that the participants showed high levels of nomophobia in the sense that they did not want to be away from their smart phones specifically for purposes of information seeking, communicating, picture-taking, and connecting with friends on social media. Sounds pretty normal since these are the features of smartphones that make everybody so addicted to them.
So what can we glean from this? Why is this important? For one, we have become undoubtedly dependent on our devices. Our modern, high-tech lifestyles have completely normalized the pervasiveness of technology. It’s like we’ve convinced ourselves that we must self-indulge with technology at all times. Think about it, what is the first thing you do when you have to sit in a waiting room? Scroll through your phone until your name is called. Long car ride? Break out the phone for iTunes or SoundCloud. After doing anything, we prowl to get our fix of technology. It makes us feel good when we redirect our attention to unanswered texts and notifications. Our brains get a nice hit of dopamine when we do so.
So, what’s next? What will the future hold for nomophobia? Researchers say this problem will progress with the generation after millennials, Generation Z. The main reason being that Gen Z is the only generation to be born into the world dominated by technology. Simply put, they have never known a life without screens.
Technology has become hardwired in their identities from such high exposure from an early age. It can be hard to break away with such a strong attachment. This is not to say that Gen Z’s tech-dominated lives will cause a cognitive deficit. They instead will become highly flexible and adaptable in their abilities to evolve alongside a volatile and ever-changing society.