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Smartphone separation anxiety becoming widespread: study

Press Trust of India, Los Angeles, Aug 20 2017, 18:39 IST
 Nomophobia, therefore, is also likely to become more rampant, synchronously with the increase in time spent using smartphones. File Photo

Nomophobia, therefore, is also likely to become more rampant, synchronously with the increase in time spent using smartphones. File Photo

Smartphone addiction, and anxiety caused by being separated from the devices, is getting worse as people are increasingly seeing their devices as an extension of themselves, a study has warned.

Smartphones have become an integral part of living, penetrating deep into everyday life as "an irresistible intruder in time or place" and enabling "the extension of ear and voice" for interacting with the world, researchers said.

"Nomophobia" or smartphone separation anxiety is the feelings of discomfort or anxiety caused by the unavailability of a mobile device that allows virtual communication.

Previous studies have found that separation from smartphones causes increases in heart rate, anxiety, blood pressure, and unpleasant feelings.

Researchers, including those from University of Hong Kong found that when users perceive smartphones as their extended selves, they are more likely to get attached to the devices, which, in turn, leads to nomophobia by heightening the phone proximity-seeking tendency.

"As smartphones evoke more personal memories, users extend more of their identity onto their smartphones," researchers said.

"When users perceive smartphones as their extended selves, they are more likely to become attached to the devices, which, in turn, leads to nomophobia by heightening the phone proximity-seeking tendency," they added.

Dependency on smartphones is likely to continue to increase, as the advancement of technology continues to make smartphones increasingly appealing and indispensable by adding various convenient and powerful features that facilitate ubiquitous communication, researchers said.

Nomophobia, therefore, is also likely to become more rampant, synchronously with the increase in time spent using smartphones.

Researchers developed a model that identified a link between factors such as personal memories and user's greater attachment to their smartphones, leading to nomophobia and a tendency to phone proximity-seeking behaviour.

An online survey was developed to assess the levels of smartphone users' positive memories, self-extension, attachment, phone proximity-seeking behavior, and nomophobia.

"Nomophobia, fear of missing out (FoMo), and fear of being offline (FoBo) - all anxieties born of our new high-tech lifestyles - may be treated similarly to other more traditional phobias," said Brenda K Wiederhold from Interactive Media Institute in the US.

"Exposure therapy, in this case turning off technology periodically, can teach individuals to reduce anxiety and become comfortable with periods of disconnectedness," Wiederhold added.
The study was published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

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