Nomophobics anonymous: A day without my phone

By Katie Garwood |


Some people are addicted to alcohol, some to gambling and some to smoking.

But me? I’m addicted to using my phone. And the first step to solving an addiction is admitting you have a problem, so let this be just that. I have a problem.

And the best way to try to break an addiction is to cut it out entirely, right? That’s kind of what I did, so I hope it is. I went an entire day without using my phone, and I lived to tell the tale.

But thankfully (or maybe not), I’m not the only one with this problem. In a study done in 2012, 66 percent of participants feared losing or being without their phones, which is an actual condition known as nomophobia. There are even rehab programs for cell phone addiction. But don’t worry, I haven’t reached that level.

I began my day by going to the dining hall, where I usually take my phone with me. Without my phone, there was a noticeable void. It felt like something vital was missing, almost like walking out of the house without shoes. It was a feeling I was completely unaccustomed to.

I then headed to the library to do homework. I still felt a little off without my phone, especially when I started my work. Normally when I do homework, I work for a little while, then look at my phone to “take a break” every so often. Every 10 minutes or so I worked, I felt an urge to pick up my phone. It felt like a switch was turning on in my head, telling me, “Oh my God, I need to look at my phone right now or the world will come to an end!” But without my phone, I couldn’t do that. And oddly enough, the whole world marched on—as far as I know.

I found that the compulsion to reach for my phone happened far more frequently than I thought. For some reason, even when I didn’t have any reason to use my phone, my brain told me I absolutely needed to use it. This made me think: What if my phone wasn’t a phone, but was something potentially more dangerous, like alcohol. If I had the urge to open a bottle of alcohol as often as I picked up my phone, I’d literally be an alcoholic.

Alcoholics don’t need alcohol to survive, but they think they do. They’re psychologically dependent on it. The same can be said for those, like myself, who can’t get enough of their phones. When my phone is beside me, I usually have no real reason for reaching for it. I don’t even use my phone to contact people, other than through texts, which I can easily replace with any kind of online messenger.

Calling people is a rarity for me. Had I decided to go a day without calling someone, my day would be exactly like any other day. But turning it off completely kept me from using social media, checking email, playing games or doing any other number of time-wasting activities. So for the most part, I use my phone to entertain myself.

It almost feels wrong to refer to my cell phone as a “phone.” The “phone” part isn’t the problem. In fact, I should probably call people more often—sorry, Mom and Dad. The problem is all of the useless, time-consuming things I can access with this device. I don’t NEED to play Candy Crush, but often do just to avoid something just about all young people fear: boredom.

During my day without my “entertainment block”—which I’ll use instead of “phone”—I found myself sitting in my dorm room with nothing to do. And it wasn’t that bad. Instead, I went for a walk downtown without the usual distraction from my entertainment block and played golf with no interruption. I even cleaned my room, something I had been meaning to do for a while, but kept finding something else to do —probably playing Candy Crush.

If our phones are only for entertainment, then why do we even have them? We don’t need to be constantly entertained, and we can always contact people through social media, email or, God forbid—through a letter. My friends even warned me not to go anywhere without my phone in case something happened. But where could I go where there wouldn’t be someone with a phone nearby if I desperately needed one? If I got in a car accident, the last thing I would need to do is call someone. I’d bet my college fund on there being at least one person nearby calling 911.

Throughout my phoneless day, I realized this small device doesn’t actually benefit me much. I got my phone back after the 24 hours and felt compelled to check all of my notifications, which had been a relief not to see for an entire day. In the future, I can only hope to try to loosen the grip of this addiction.

If you think you might be addicted to your phone, you probably are. First, admit you have a problem. Then take your phone, lock it away for a day and see just how often you want to use it. Learn to live without it, because just like people don’t need alcohol, you also don’t need your phone.

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