March 3, 2021

The Toxic Relationship nobody Talks About: “Nomophobia” & What to Do About It.

It all started when I got my first “Very Blue” flip phone during my first year at college. 

Texting was a dream come true—especially for an introvert who has a lot to say but doesn’t know how or when to speak out.

After my first mobile, it was time for my first serious boyfriend to enter my life, and soon enough, texting became the center of my world.

Sexting was not really popular back then—nudes weren’t even an option. However, those 120 messages a day saying, “I love you. No, I love you more,” were our opium.

Following the flip phones, the Blackberries and BBM pins entered my world simultaneously as I was paving my way in the business, fashion, and corporate world.

Once again, I found myself BBMing 24-7. Even when I fell asleep, I’d be moving my fingers—either having a dream about the next BBM I’d get from my then-crush or a nightmare about the next email I’d get from my then-boss. It was all about the pin.

It was still controllable and semi-healthy until I got my first smartphone, an iPhone 4. Yes, it was a 4 because until then, I did not want to become mainstream (like that meme that says, “Dumb person with a smart phone”).

As you may have guessed, I lost my battle against the tech-world when I fell head over heels in love with Steve Jobs—his vision and products.

Sadly, Jobs was not the only man I fell in love with during that period. I started dating someone who lived on the other side of the world. Naturally, long-distance relationships and texting (or sexting) go hand in hand.

The person I loved the most (then) lived in a mobile phone. Who wouldn’t want to keep their partners by their side as long as they could? We ended up using every single app out there to connect from Viber to WhatsApp.

Unfortunately, after almost five years, the man was gone, but the unhealthy coping mechanisms, broken heart, and dreams lingered on.

I found myself unconsciously following an unhealthy pattern in relationships until I discovered that, although I have never had any type of phobia, I suffer from one of the worst—nomophobia, the fear of being without a mobile device, or beyond mobile phone contact.

It dawned at me that my world revolved around a gadget when I couldn’t understand how the man I adored did not text me 24-7, and I ended up ruining the whole thing because of my obsession.

Needless to say, I have almost lost friends because I was so angry that they didn’t reply within 10 seconds. It got to a point where I was so delusional that I thought everyone had their mobiles on them every second of the day.

It hit me really hard when my sister did not text me back one day, only to find out later that she rarely has her phone on her. Funnily, we were both watching “The Queen’s Gambit.”

She went and bought a chessboard to start practicing in the evening; I downloaded a chess app.

Still, none of these were true indications that I suffered from a phobia. 

Here are the 10 surefire signs that proved that I do suffer from nomophobia (and how to tell if you do as well):

1. I can be a walking zombie (a smartphone zombie) at home, at work, and in the streets.

2. I use my mobile at work, at the dinner table, and even when I am out with friends.

3. I have separation anxiety and cannot leave my mobile in another room or at home.

4. I feel agitated and irritable when I don’t have my mobile on me.

5. I text way more than I talk. I “text-smother” those I love. No wonder they block me.

6. I recharge my mobile next to my bed. It is the last thing I look at before I fall asleep and the first thing I grab as soon as I wake up.

7. I keep using apps for everything, literally everything, including grocery shopping lists.

8. I take my mobile with me to the bathroom and even use it when showering. Why else would Apple create a waterproof screen?

9. Snubbing is my thing. I lost a friend because I tend to ignore people when I am texting. I spent the entire time during a music show doing that.

10. I risked my life and the life of others, as I felt the need to check my mobile when driving. Thankfully, I learned my lesson, and I haven’t done that since 2012.

Here are some of the things I have started doing (still currently trying to reinforce) that helped me get over my smartphone addiction:

>> I deleted as many apps as I could. I only picked three of my favorite and most-beneficial apps to keep.

>> I started to charge my phone in another room during the night. My holy book has become the last thing I see before bedtime and the first thing I grab in the morning.

>> I turned off all notifications, and I am trying to check my mobile only a few times a day.

>> I put my mobile away in a drawer at work and during meetings.

>> I made an agreement with family members and friends to put away mobile phones when together.

>> I am trying a smartphone detox by having at least one day a week when I totally disconnect.

>> I use old-fashioned notebooks that I already have (I try to avoid buying paper) and my laptop for writing, reading, and notes.

>> I schedule self-care time daily that doesn’t include mobile usage.

>> I vowed that I would never ever, no matter what, text or use the phone when driving.

>> I am training myself to communicate better verbally and to literally use my voice.

>> Last but not least, I refrained from being in long-distance relationships. It might work for others, but I cannot do it anymore—I paid my dues in that area. I promised myself I would connect face-to-face more often, even though it meant leaving my comfort zone.

The first Friday of March is the National Day of Unplugging, which led me to decide to unplug each and every Friday henceforth.

With the pandemic and the countless Zoom meetings and online learning, it will be tough to filter and manage screen time. 

Hence, it is vital, now more than ever, to prioritize work, learning, and a sense of purpose over the life-time-energy-money-sucking trivialities.

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