Nomophobia: new disease?

It was close. I could have hit her and then this would be a different story.

I am thankful I saw the woman as she stepped blindly in front of me into traffic, her eyes glued to a cellphone. She was so absorbed by her fascinating screen, she was oblivious to how close she’d come to her demise.

As my heart slowed down to normal, I again lamented the Invasion of zombies that have overtaken society.

As I glanced around me, at least two-thirds of the people on the sidewalks were exactly the same; their eyes glued to their devices. Here, in one of the most beautiful places in the world, they were unaware of their surroundings.

While drinking-and-driving is a well-known recipe for disaster, the risk of cellphone use and walking may be lesser known. People are getting hurt because of this habit, experiencing:

  • Sprains
  • Concussions
  • Broken bones
  • Brain injuries
  • Even death

All because their eyes are glued to a screen.

I’ve had to dodge people while walking down the sidewalk because they’re oblivious about where they’re walking. In London, England, they’ve resorted to padding lamp posts to save people from themselves.

Let’s face it, cellphone addiction is rampant — two-out-of-three people are addicted to their device.

It’s common to see people being alone together, each glued to the screen in front of them. It’s like an invisible cage they’re held in, absorbed in the virtual reality of a device.

Have you ever been interrupted mid-sentence because someone’s cellphone beeped or rang while you were visiting? Whoever was on the other end was more important than anything you have to say.

It doesn’t feel very good, does it? What happens to relationships in the context of this ever-present digital companion?

While it’s easy to go blind to what’s become normal, it’s valuable to question what’s happening to us as a society with our growing addiction to our devices.

I admit to having a love-hate relationship with mine. With a world of information at our fingertips, we seem to be anywhere else but where we are.

I’ve noticed any moment of waiting seems to present opportunity to check these ubiquitous devices. We love our technology, which is great when we’re using it, not when it’s using us.

Nomophobia, a new word born from our love of technology, is the fear of being without a mobile device or being outside of cell range. It’s really a thing.

My friends Jim and Kim Rhindress even wrote a song about the prevalence of this new phobia. I thought it was a joke, until I realized it isn’t.

My awareness of the growing epidemic of cellphone addiction heightened when I viewed a photo series, Removed, by Eric Pickersgill.

Pickersgill captured photos of people in modern life, consumed by their devices, except the devices were removed from their hands in his photos. Images that are all too familiar in today’s society become odd, absurd, and alarming through Pickersgill’s lens.

This photo series was like a cold slap of reality to me. The stark truth of what’s happening caused me to wake-up and notice the isolating and intrusive nature of life married to digital devices.

I call it the invasion of the zombies.

Technology is good, but overusing it creates challenges for the cognitive function of our brains. There are many health costs arising from cellphone addiction.

It may be startling to realize the abilities of our brains are changing due to the increased use of technology.

We are harming our ability to remember and to solve simple problems on our own.

How many phone numbers can you remember? Are you able to quickly calculate sale prices in your head? Our spatial awareness is being altered through the use of Google Maps. Use it or lose it.

As I stood with a young clerk in a store recently, she was shocked when I was quickly able to calculate the final price of an item when the sale price was 20% off. She was impressed. I’m concerned that she was impressed.

Digital dementia, a term coined by Manfred Spitzer in 2012, is the breakdown of the ability of the brain to think. Poor short-term memory, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders are only a few of the consequences of the overuse of technology.

Whether it’s distracted walking, digital dementia, or relationship challenges arising from over-use of digital devices, the effects are alarming. We’re the only ones who can change it for ourselves.

As my friend Jeff cautioned, “Beware the cyber-toothed tiger.”


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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