By Molly Govus | Head of Comment
The concept of owning a phone has no longer become a luxury in society; instead, it is pretty much expected, and those that do not own one have become the minority. According to Statista, over 95% of the UK are proud parents to their handheld devices. In an age where the most expensive phones in an ‘affordable’ market range from £1000 to £1400, there is no doubt or a sense of surprise in the expected rise of importance and anxiety placed on these electronic devices.
Unfortunately, for some, with rising importance comes a sense of pressure. This is arguably inevitable; with phones becoming more and more compact and accessible, it often seems like there is never an easy way to escape the constant beep or text from your phone. After all, they are always in our hand, in our pockets, or in my case, still embarrassingly clutched in my hand when I wake up in the morning. It is a constant technological reminder of a need for attention, and this can be exhausting and debilitating.
Research from the Nielsen Mobile Shopping, Banking and Payment report revealed that over 53% of global consumers feel anxious when their phone is not to hand. We all know the scenario, almost too well; the classic fumble in the pockets, the rising anxiety, followed by a wave of sheer relief when our phones return to the palm of our hand. It’s not surprising at all to know that the research showed that two-thirds of phone-owners can’t imagine life without their mobile device.
You may wonder, wherein all this lies the problem? The problem lies within the growing incessant need to constantly be available and to constantly be updated. Having an accessible and modern phone means that you can never turn on the ‘busy’ button, metaphorically speaking. The truth is, even when your phone is on silent, you can still read the texts and emails coming in, and one can’t help to feel a sense of obligation and urgency towards that. Therein lies the very problem. Phones have made us constantly available, readily switched on, and truthfully, we are not made for that.
According to Clarity Clinic, telephone phobia, or phone anxiety, has been placed within the social anxiety category. This anxiety and pressure can get so bad that a person’s hesitance to make or receive calls can cause mental and physical symptoms, indicating an actual phone phobia. To the older generations especially, this may sound comical, but I urge these readers not to forget how integral phones and technology are to our lives and how they constantly surround us.
Some may ask, what is there to be anxious about? Most modern relationships have a firm basis via social media and texting, most doctors and medical experts discuss issues on the phone, and businesses utilize calls for customer service help. It is unavoidable – every part of our life can be managed, discussed, and placed within a call or a text.
Phones don’t accommodate to those who feel more comfortable in direct social situations; this could be due to the fact that face-to-face interaction allows for people to read non-verbal cues such as body language and facial expression. I’m sure we’ve all been taken aback by a ‘blunt’ text before, when really, the reality is just that texts can’t embody emotion, and this can cause problems. I’ve even caught myself saying before, ‘oh, you didn’t put an emoji, so I thought you were mad at me or something’. Slightly comical, but it just goes to show just how ingrained phone interaction has become within our generation and the relationships we have with others. Verywell Mind states that ‘it can be disruptive to both a person’s personal and professional life. It is important to take phone anxiety seriously.’
Emotions surrounding phone anxiety can develop at different times within responses to your phone. For example, before a phone call, a person may feel an intense anticipation of what is to come and an anxiety surrounding the topic or flow of the conversation. I’m sure we’ve all planned out what we want to say on the phone far too many times, only for it to fly out the moment someone answers on the other end. During the interaction, someone may exert their worries into the conversation and develop a fear of being judged by the other person. After, a sufferer may show signs of worry surrounding how the interaction went and concern for what the interaction means for the future. It sounds like an exhausting process, and we should be more aware of this problem as a technologically savvy generation.
Saying all this, it has become a shameful habit of mine to check my phone first thing in the morning. Before I have even considered any thought to my day, I find myself subconsciously reaching for my phone before I have even put my contact lenses in. It turns out I’d rather suffer and squint my eyes than not be caught up with whatever’s going on behind the pixels. The importance of my phone has been placed in the fact that is my connection to everything in the world – to my friends at home, to emails from my lecturers, to calling my grandparents. Don’t blame yourself for this; this is just the way it is for better or for worse. There are many techniques you can use to detach from your phone, whether it be charging it in another room overnight or taking just 10 minutes every morning without your phone.
It might not be bad to give it a go; maybe a world perspective without a phone tied to the hip is the way forward in decreasing the technological pressures felt by our generation and those to come.