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Smart Phones – A Blessing or a Curse?

According to Merriam-Webster, a smart phone can be defined as a cell phone that includes additional software functions (such as e-mail or an Internet browser). In other words, A smartphone is a portable personal computer with a mobile operating system with features useful for handheld use.

A Japanese firm “NTT DoCoMo” released the first range of smartphones in 1999, for public use. The first few purposes of smartphones were telecommunications, timekeeping, note-taking, calculation, and basic computing functionality. 

However, in today’s time, smart phones are being used for a completely different purpose. 

Smartphone addiction, colloquially known as “nomophobia” (fear of being without a mobile phone), 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.

This type of addiction is often fueled by an Internet overuse problem or Internet addiction disorder. 
It is not just the use of smartphones that can be termed as nomophobia. The reasons for which the phone is being used for all-day also plays a huge role in its current rising prevalence. Melinda Smith, Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal,(2016) mentioned the following three main areas for which smartphones are used these days – 

  • Virtual relationships. Addiction to social networking, dating apps, texting, and messaging. This can even extend to the point where virtual, online friends become more important than actual real-life relationships.
  • Online compulsions. Gaming, gambling, stock trading, online shopping, or bidding on auction sites come under this category. This has often lead to financial and job-related problems.
  • Information overload. Compulsive web surfing, watching videos, playing games, searching Google, or checking news feeds. This can lead to lower productivity at work or school and also isolate people for hours at a time.

Recent Researches on Smartphone Addiction
Nomophobia is an abbreviation for “no-mobile-phone phobia,” which was coined during a 2010 study by the UK Post Office. 

A research was conducted by YouGov, and it was concluded that about 58 % of men and 47 % of women suffer from the phobia in the UK, and another 9 % feel stressed when their mobile phones are off. 

Davey et al. (2014), it was found that in India, 39-44% of adolescents between the age of 11-14 were suffering from this addiction.  

Sanjeev Davey and Anuradha Davey (2014) mentioned that the smartphone addiction magnitude in India ranged from 39% to 44%.

In another study conducted by Roberts et al (2014), great gender differences were found and it was shown that women are more inclined towards smartphone addiction than men. 

Bolle CL et al, (2015) supported this study and said that men faceless “mobile-related stress” as compared to women as use their phones for ‘less social purposes’. 

Perlow et al, (2012) came up with the following statistics when conducted a study with a sample of 2057 respondents. 

  • 70% check their phones in the morning within an hour of getting up
  • 56% check their phones before going to bed
  • 48% check their phones over the weekend
  • 51% constantly check their phones during vacation
  • 44% reported they would feel very anxious and irritable if they did not interact with their phones within a week

Looking at these alarming numbers, Nomophobia is an alarming concern that should be tackled at the roots. 

Effects of Nomophobia

Psychological well-being and emotional health are at great risks when looking at this type of addiction. Various health ailments have also been observed. 

  • The increasing rate of Depression – Various studies have been conducted over the years that show a positive correlation between the use of cell-phones and the levels of depression at a given time. On the face, cellphones may make the individual feel more connected to others, however in actuality; the number of hours spent on a mobile phone is directly proportional to the feeling of loneliness amongst people. 
  • Trigger for Anxiety – After looking at a particular post by a friend, the life of peers, acts of friending, unfriending and blocking on social media ; all have reported to be high indicators of anxiety.  
  • Alarmingly high levels of Stress – The pressure of being available all the time for work purposes or even for friends & family can lead to high levels of stress. Living up to other’s expectations can also be one of the causes of stress. 
  • Attention Deficit disorders – Increasing number of messages and notifications every minute of the day can lead to severe attention issues in the individual. 
  • Sleep-related problems – According to a study by scientists from the Karolinska Institute and Uppsala University in Sweden, excessive using of a cellphone before bedtime has shown increased chances of suffering from Insomnia; mostly in young adults. 
  • Narcissism – Countless selfies, filters, picture editing apps and the need to be accepted, all contribute towards an individual being more and more self – centred and this can also lead to having irrationally higher expectations from one’s own self. 
  • Higher chances of Cancer – According to the ongoing research by the ‘International Agency for Research on Cancer’ of the ‘World Health Organization’, “radio frequency emitted from cell phones is a possible human carcinogen, based on heavy usage increasing the risk of developing glioma tumors — a common benign tumor, a rare but deadly form of cancer.”
  • Bullying – A research on cyberbullying sponsored by OpenNet, it was concluded that “teenagers who are ‘heavy cellphone users’ are more likely to engage in the practice of bullying online, as well as become bullied themselves.”

Hence, it’s on each of us individually to either act responsibly and use this smart gadget cautiously or become preys to Nomophobia.

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