Immobile without the mobile

I clearly remember when I was young and in those more laid back days, a mobile phone was practically unheard of. Sure, I saw some men in suits carrying a small attache case-like portable phone and most of the time, these sharp looking men tend to drive an imported German marque.

Meeting up with friends used to be a rather linear affair as a gentlemen's agreement was drawn up prior to the appointment - with date, time and venue already set in stone, verbally at least. At the appointed rendezvous point and time, the earlier person tends to pace around, or at least settle down with a good book while waiting for the other person to show up. Last minute changes were practically unheard of, as we were unable to reach one another.

Fast forward to this day, and how things have changed. Mobile phone penetration in developed and even developing countries has grown to such a level that it is nigh impossible to find someone without a handset, never mind if it is high-end, mid-range or entry level. Leaving the house used to mean remembering the wallet or handbag and the essential bunch of keys. These days, the mobile phone is absolutely essential. Which brings us to the topic of nomophobia, an abbreviation for "no-mobile-phone phobia". This particular word was coined after a study by the UK Post Office on how mobile phone users suffered from higher anxiety levels when they did not have any mobile phone contact.

Nomophobia is an interesting topic as it really depends on what constitutes nomophobia. I am quite sure that we would not want to live or work in an area where it is nearly impossible to receive a signal on the handset, although a small minority of us might find ourselves in such a situation. For most of us, we tend to move within areas that have network coverage and never mind the wallet when we leave home, do not ever forget to bring your mobile phone with you!

The advent of smartphones as well as cloud services on a mobile platform has also increased our dependency on the smartphone which no longer just carries our contacts list but also our cache of emails and allows us to conduct online transactions.

To add another selling point - the ever more affordable mobile data plans and the explosive popularity of mobile versions of social networks like Facebook, VoIP service such as Skype and micro blogging site Twitter, and thus you have quite an indispensable modern-day tool for homo sapiens. The ever increasing quality of cameras inside smartphones also help increase the value of carrying a handset around with you at all times - after all, you can never quite tell when you need to snap a photo and upload it on your Facebook for all and sundry to see. With some countries introducing NFC (Near Field Communications) technology in mobile phones that come in handy for monetary transactions, you might no longer need to carry your wallet in the future.

Nomophobia can also occur under different circumstances, i.e. running out of battery, not having enough credit or even losing one's handset.

I have suffered the loss of three mobile phones to date, due to carelessness as well as theft. Those couple of days spent without a handset in my pocket raised my anxiety levels so much I thought I was going through a mid-life crisis a couple of decades earlier than expected. It was rather hard to concentrate on work until I had gotten my new SIM card and smartphone, and going out with friends was a whole lot more inconvenient as there was no room to negotiate last minute changes in plans. That would be my personal brush with nomophobia, and I am not ashamed to say that these days, the smartphone goes into my pocket before the wallet and house keys prior to heading out for an appointment.

Just how do you feel when you do not have your mobile phone with you? Do you tend to fidget uncomfortably, always wondering whether anyone is trying to reach you, or are you in possession of the mental fortitude that pushes all thoughts of your handset to a separate compartment in your mind, only to focus on the task at hand until you reach home? After all, there is no point worrying about something that you have no power over.

Why a person turns nomophobic

• Fear of losing contact with the world or specifically friends or relatives.
• Fear of losing important business or other deals.
• Fear of not getting updated about the latest happenings.
• Fear of not keeping in touch with their lover (also not being able to know their actions).
• Fear of losing data/contacts stored in the phone.
• Fear the phone will fall into wrong hands.

Signs of nomophobia

• Inability to turn the phone off.
• Obsessively checking for missed calls, emails and texts.
• Constantly charging the battery.
• Unable to go anywhere without the mobile.