'My Name’s Gemma Styles. And I'm A Phone-A-Holic'
The Debrief: Is it possible to be actually, properly addicted to your phone? New Debrief columnist Gemma Styles took the test to find out...
Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
Rolling over on a fateful Saturday morning I realised that the splash I just heard was, in fact, my phone sliding from its usual position under my pillow and falling off the bed - straight into a glass of water – a trick I wouldn’t be able to repeat again if I tried.
I then had the train of thought every person on the planet has when they drop their phone in water
- Shitshitshit get the case off, GET THE CASE OFF
- Put it in rice?
- Do I have any rice?
- Will pasta work?
Pasta did not work. But do you know what this episode taught me? That I’m properly addicted to my phone.
I’m not alone. A recent opinion poll found that 82 percent of Americans believe their mobile phones are addictive and some have even gone as far as checking into rehab to help them to deal with their crippling nomophobia... that's 'no-mobile-phone-phobia,' just FYI. I like to think I'm not THAT bad, but then I took this test - and answered Yes to every question. Ah. So what? When is nomophobia actually going to be a problem? As it happens, it's a huge problem on the road.
Driving while on the phone is dangerous. You're not allowed. We all know it. But hands-free calls are legal, which means it’s safe - right? Unsurprisingly, the answer is no - estimates have shown that 21 percent of car crashes can be blamed on talking on the phone, with at least another three percent on top for texting. That's MILLIONS of accidents per year.
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Now I don't actually drive, so my worst case scenario transport-wise might be missing my bus stop while paying too much attention to curating Spotify playlists. But then again, while checking an urgent email, I might get hit by that bus. Who knows. The fact of it is I can't tear myself away from the thing, even when my personal safety could be at risk, and that makes me feel a bit…weak if I’m honest.
Think I’m being hard on myself? A couple of weeks ago I arranged to meet my friend after work in posh scary London a.k.a. Knightsbridge. Running late I got an SOS Instagram notification saying that Ellie's phone was broken and she would meet me at the station at seven. By the time my bus terminated early, my umbrella tried to behead me and I'd got off the phone to my boss, I was very late and she was very not there - and I had NO idea what to do. What do you do when you can't just text someone? How did our people find each other? How did anyone get ANYTHING done?
To end a rambling story, we were reunited in a dramatic scene outside Harrods when we ran screaming into each other's arms. People looked fondly upon us like we were separated at birth and they were witnessing something heartwarming.
We hadn't seen each other for two hours.
Essentially, I’m a total disaster without a phone and I genuinely I feel safer when I have it. Out at night and not totally sure where I am, without cash or company, I would feel panicked - but I know there's an uber two clicks away so how bad can it be? Then again, it can make me doubt myself. Even if I know where I'm going and it's a familiar route, I'll still check Citymapper to see if I'm missing a trick and miraculously there’s a better way that I’ve missed.
So what’s the solution? Wean myself off my phone an hour a day? Drop it in a glass of water every Saturday, just for some enforced peace and quiet over the weekend? Start taking an A-Z with me on a night out? Just the thought of it is giving me sweaty palms.
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Let’s not forget how great your phone is for making you switch off too. It means you can catch up on that book you’re trying to finish every time your bus gets stuck in traffic. Feeling anxious? What about all the great meditation and mindfulness apps you can download to use any time you need (put your phone on airplane mode for maximum chill-out time). And what about all the time, energy and brainpower our phones save us on a daily basis? For me, it’s not about using my phone less, it’s about learning how to make it useful, without letting it control my every move.
Maybe I could do with being a bit less plugged in occasionally, but I’m not going to fight it anymore. My name’s Gemma, I’ve got nomophobia... and I’m okay with it.
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Follow Gemma on Twitter @gemmaannestyles
At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating