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University Survey Measures “Nomophobia”, People’s Addiction to Cellular Phones

You’re hours away from home, and you’re running out of time. Sweat begins to form in droplets on your brow, as you look around you for anything resembling a source of energy; otherwise, you know you won’t last long.

Then, the electronic harbinger of doom presents itself, like some sullen soldier of death and doom upon his steed at the horizon, as a message flashes before your eyes.

Low Battery: 10% of battery remaining. 

Do you select “Dismiss”, or do you make a final, desperate attempt to prolong the inevitable by switching your phone’s battery settings over to “Low Power Mode”, with the hope that your phone might somehow last until the end of the work day?

This might all sound a bit overly dramatic, but according to researchers at Iowa State University, the threat is real… or at least, the perceived threats that begin to emerge when people become addicted to their Smartphones.

The researchers involved with the study decided to test what they call Nomophobia, a portmanteau playing on the term “no mobile phone phobia”, by developing a 20-question survey, which addresses a number of “symptoms” associated with individuals when not able to use or access their mobile phone.


Questions on the survey, which include, “Running out of battery life would scare me,” are ranked on a scale of 1 to 7, with seven representing an extreme amount of concern in relation to the given scenario. Other questions include, “If I did not have my smartphone with me, I would be nervous because I would be disconnected from my online identity,” as well as, “I would feel anxious because I could not keep in touch with family and/or friends.”

The Iowa State researchers broke down a series of total scores, which identified individuals with either no signs of nomophobia, or varying degrees of the condition ranging from “mild” to “severe”.

First Coast News reported that, “In a small case study group of 10 teenagers, half who took the quiz scored in the ‘severe nomophobia’ range. The result mirrors national research, which shows 50 percent of American teens say they’re addicted to their smartphones.”

Apparently, the threat is real indeed.

A similar study, carried out by researchers with Binghamton University at State University of New York, was published in Information Systems Journal, which classified various types of Smartphone users, which included “Thoughtful,” “Regular,” “Highly Engaged,” “Fanatic,” and “Addict.”

Isaac Vaghefi, one of the researchers involved in the aforementioned study and assistant professor of management information systems, was quoted saying:

“Our smartphones have turned into a tool that provides short, quick, immediate satisfaction, which is very triggering. Our neurons get fired and dopamine is being released, and over time this makes us acquire a desire for quick feedback and immediate satisfaction. This process also has contributed to developing shorter attention spans and being more and more prone to boredom.”

According to the Information Systems Journal paper, women are particularly prone to suffering from Smartphone addiction, with the behavior “linked to a variety of personal, social, and work problems.”

One must wonder, at times, how people ever even survived in the days before cell phones? I mean, how did they find food, let alone locate other humans around them?

All kidding aside, while our modern reliance on Smartphones is largely a perceived concern, built upon the convenience having these little devices around has helped provide, Smartphones are in no way a necessary part of our survival. Still, industries and other facets of modern culture are certainly being built around Smartphones and their use, due to their prevalence, and hence, more and more people find themselves having to rely on having one at all times for business, communication, and a host of other things.

Nonetheless, rather than the time-honored old adage that “excess is best”, we might all do well to schedule periods of the day where we spend time away from our phones, lest those insatiable cellular urges begin to get out of hand.

After all, dread… no one wants to become a “Nomophobic”!


Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.
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