If you think of yourself as being particularly tech-savvy, you might also consider your cell phone to be an extension of your very physical being. That’s no real surprise, considering the convenience mobile devices can provide and our increasing reliance on our gadgets. But if you’ve ever felt panicked at the sight of your phone’s power dwindling into low-battery-warning territory or forgetting your phone at home, you might have a real problem on your hands. In fact, it has a name: nomophobia.
The term — derived from the phrase “no-mobile-phone phobia” — describes the fear of being without your mobile phone, whether due to its lack of physical presence or its dead battery. Many of us feel like we can’t function without our phones. Around 660,000 drivers use cell phones or other electronic devices while behind the wheel, proving that we’re incapable of enduring a single car ride without checking our notifications. Studies have found that smartphone-related anxieties can impact our ability to work, socialize, and generally engage in real life. Our need to connect through digital means can have huge consequences for our direct safety (like with driving) and brain functionality.
Experts recommend that if you think you might have nomophobia (take this quiz to find out if you’ve got it), you may want to always have a charger on-hand and perform a digital detox to curb your reliance on tech. But that may not be the only reason to put your phone down for a bit. A newly released study shows that even having your phone in your possession can impair learning during lectures; though some students experienced nomophobia in the study, others were highly distracted by incoming text messages. So if you’re trying to get the most out of your education, you may want to consider at least putting your phone in “do not disturb” mode.
And then, of course, there are physical health issues that can manifest from an overabundance of cell phone use. Your cell phone contains about 25,000 germs on every square inch of surface, making it dirtier than the bottom of your shoe or the average toilet seat. When you use your fingers to text or hold your phone to your ear to talk, guess where those bacteria end up? On your face.
While nearly 85% of people have acne at some point in their lives, new breakouts that can’t be attributed to diet or excessive stress could be attributed to cell phone use. The bacteria on your phone’s surface can cause breakouts and even hyperpigmentation (due to the heat generated from the screen). While cleaning it properly can help, it’ll still be better if you can limit the time you talk and text. Plus, looking at a screen all day can take a toll on your eyes and interrupt your sleep patterns. And these can lead to a whole host of other problems that can have a significant impact on all parts of your life.
It may seem scary at first to be without your phone, but over time, you may find you actually feel free. For the sake of your emotional and physical health, you may want to consider limiting your cell phone use as much as possible. If you’re stuck for ideas on what to do, consider cleaning off your carport or going out without the intention of documenting it for social media. Though it may seem impossible in the digital age, you’ll probably find you’re a lot happier, more productive, and less stressed when you aren’t held captive by your mobile device.