Nomophobia — No-mobile-phone-phobia and a World of Darkness


Are you nomophobic? If you’re like two thirds of people in a recent study done by SecurEnvoy, a mobile security provider based in the UK, you likely are.

So what is this phobia exactly? Nomophobia, short for no-mobile-phone phobia, is the fear of being without one’s mobile phone or tablet device. It is also the anxiety felt when one is not able to get an optimal signal.

The name was invented by YouGov, a UK research group which was the first to look at such growing anxieties in society. While this may sound extreme to some, it is not uncommon for many to feel a twinge of fear and disconnection when their mobile electronic devices are lost, out of battery or out of range. Who hasn’t felt that jolt of fear when realizing our beloved Android or BlackBerry phones are not where we thought they were? Studies have shown that people check their mobile phones dozens of times a day, and the amount of time we spend with our devices is often more than we spend with close friends and family.

This connection to mobile devices renders them more than just a piece of plastic, but rather pieces of technology that have the capability to become a second self. As more Samsung gadgets, BlackBerry models, Apple tablets and other products hit the market, people’s imaginations often begin to consider what would occur if technology suddenly went black, if all modern technology simply ceased to function.

Previous technologically-based fears were usually centered on the gross development, not destruction, of advanced technology. From Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” to George Orwell’s “1984”, a technologically advanced society was portrayed as one where children were grown only in tubes and secret surveillance was at every turn. Dozens of films have been produced that focus on hyper-powerful robots vying for domination against floundering humans. While these themes are indeed still popular, as the benefits of a technologically advanced society are reinforced, from improved medication to ease of travel and communication, fears have shifted to what would occur if all of these conveniences upon which our society is based suddenly disappeared.

One way this fear manifests itself in society is through the creative outlet of television and films. The premise of several apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic television and film series has been based around the idea that after an event, like an alien invasion, nuclear war or incurable epidemic, those who remain on Earth must survive with rudimentary tools, often without electricity, mobile phones, cars or a means of connecting to anyone else around the world.

Does all of this fear really manifest from our love for our mobile phones? In a sense, yes. Fear begins with the simple things, with the anxiety produced from being disconnected from Facebook and Twitter, but this fear also clearly has deeper psychological implications. Being disconnected from technology is being disconnected from knowledge and progress. Something as fundamental as being without a light bulb has a profound effect not only on what someone can do and when they can do it, but also on how they feel about the world. The fear of losing technology is the fear of being plunged back into a world of darkness, a world of superstition and the indefinite. Technology has come to represent a hope for the future and without that hope many find themselves with dark fears of the unknown.

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