Where the heck is my phone?

Amrita Prasad
Monday, 7 January 2019

With ‘nomophobia’ declared as the word of 2018, we speak to youngsters to know about their experience of living without their phones, the downswings of the phenomenon and how they are trying to overcome it

Well, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Cambridge Dictionary has announced ‘nomophobia’ as the word of 2018. Our obsession with mobile phones ought to bring up more such terms, seriously! Nomophobia is the fear or worry of being without your mobile phone or not being able to use it. Cambridge Dictionary asked its users from across the world to vote for the word they think best summed up the year just gone by. The most popular word was ‘nomophobia’, which reveals that many people suffer from this anxiety.  

And if you think only youngsters are addicted to their phones, you are mistaken. Even Bollywood’s legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan recently confessed suffering from nomophobia. Big B tweeted: ‘Nomophobia. It’s the fear of losing your cell /mobile phone!’ ... I have no such phobia, but ‘nomobile phobia’ .. bang on !!”

Search nomophobia on Google and the answer that comes up is: ‘It is the irrational fear of being without your mobile phone or being unable to use your phone for some reason, such as the absence of a signal or running out of minutes or battery power. A phobia is, by definition, an irrational fear.’ The word has actually been around a lot longer than you would think. The earliest known use was in 2008 by YouGov researchers, in a report commissioned by the UK Post Office. 

We ask youngsters from across different cities how they relate to the word and is nomophobia actually a cause for concern.   

Owing to our dependency on smartphones, nomophobia has become exceedingly mainstream. From my recent memory, I vividly recall an incident where nomophobia got the better of me and left me maimed. A millennial in all my rights, I finished my work in office and took the city bus to my apartment, listening to music with earphones plugged in and checking notifications on my Instagram page. Like every Friday evening, I had plans sketched to hang out with friends, click loads of pictures and upload them on social media with colourful captions. After I reached home and took a quick shower, I suddenly realised that my most valuable possession was out of my sight. Unable to recall where I had misplaced it, a feeling of anxiety took over me. Hysterically, I searched for the device. Panic struck, I banged my neighbour’s door and asked the sulky old man to let me make a call from his phone. He reluctantly obliged. As the call failed to go through, my fear rose beyond measures. Restlessly, I made a call to the only person in my weekend hangout gang whose number I could remember, informing her about the incident. Depressed I sat in my room thinking how my weekend plans got ruined. In a final attempt to recover my lost asset, I searched my bedroom thoroughly, only to find my smartphone stuck in the bridge between the bed and the wall, in standby mode. I was already three hours late for the gathering. With a heavy heart and a pledge to never leave my smartphone away from my shadow, I retired for the day.
— Arijit Roy, Bengaluru

Before I tell you my condition that makes me ‘frightened’ at the thought of being away from my phone, I want to confess that I also suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) which is really sad. I think if I don’t have my phone with me, I am away from everyone and perhaps missing out on everything that is happening in the world. A mere five-minute absence from my phone panics me and this has alarmed my parents, hence I am seeking professional help. I eat with my phone in my hand and even while walking on the pavements, I keep looking at my Instagram account. A lot of time, I have dashed into people and got an earful. Whenever I wake up at night, I constantly check if my phone is in place. Living with nomophobia is not normal and I hope we overcome it.
— Disha Majgoankar, Goa

Ah well, it is abnormal, but my fear of losing my phone, not having my phone in my hand or seeing it getting discharged, sends chills down my spine. You may judge me for this but I feel helpless. It is a result of the times we live in. During my local commute, I keep checking my bag ‘n’ number of times just to ensure that the phone is in my pocket for I want to be ‘extra careful.’ But deep down I know I suffer from the anxiety of losing my priceless possession. I have lost a couple of friends because they prefer to play guitar or soccer whereas I like to sit and browse through my phone which they find annoying and intolerable. I want to spend time with my friends but I can’t leave my phone behind for more than a few minutes, which has also resulted in weight gain and lethargy. My phone has become my companion because of which, I fear, I may lose everyone significant in my life.  
— Sneha Banerjee, Kolkata

My life revolves around my phone and when I don’t get enough time to spend with my phone, I completely freak out. But this obsession with my smartphone and the fear of losing it, didn’t happen over a day — I blame the apps on my phone for making me a nomophobic. Initially, the use of phone was restricted to a few hours, but once I started downloading more and more apps and exploring the features of my iPhone, I realised that I had developed a kind of relationship with my phone, as if it was a living being. I am not only scared of losing and misplacing it, I also don’t like anyone touching it or trying to see my phone’s features because I think they might damage it. My girlfriend wanted to see my new phone but I got anxious when she touched it. I happened to snatch it away from her which made her suspect that I was trying to hide something, maybe she thought I was chatting with someone on Tinder. But she failed to understand that it was my fear, anxiety and nervousness of staying away from my phone that compelled me to act in an irrational manner. I tried to pacify her, but I also know that I am more attached to my phone than her. It has become worrisome for my friends and family and they think I am going mad. My nomphobia is extreme and I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t even pee or use the restroom without holding my phone in my hand. People have obviously given me the looks and called me lunatic. I hate this feeling and want to minimise the use of my phone, but my nomophobia seems to get the better of me.
— Manish Kumar,  Dhanbad, Jharkhand

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