real life

NOMOPHOBIA: "The three events that made me swear to never leave my phone at home again."

The first time I didn’t have my phone and something bad happened was when I went to the park with my kids on Sunday February 10, 2012. I was trying to be more present and less distracted. Mindful. Phone-less.

Do you know how I was able to go back and find the exact date of this unremarkable park trip? Because after a couple of lovely hours pottering around on the swings, I returned home, picked up my phone and discovered that Whitney Houston had died.

This was obviously a tragedy in real human terms and it was terribly sad for those those who knew and loved her. But as a digital journalist and a publisher, this was a news story that I’d missed and it was my job not to miss news stories like this.

‘Bad things happen when I don’t have my phone with me’, was my takeaway.

A couple of years later, I was at dinner with a girlfriend I hadn’t seen in ages. I decided to turn off my phone so I could be more present. Mindful. Less distracted. My husband was at home with the kids so I felt totally relaxed about their wellbeing. I ordered a margarita.

Two hours later, on my way to the carpark, I turned my phone on and it almost exploded. “Coco has hurt her neck and I’ve called an ambulance” was the first text I read. What happened next is a bit blurry and not due to alcohol. I nearly broke my thumbs phoning home to discover that indeed, my daughter had fallen awkwardly while play-wrestling with her brother and an ambulance had indeed been called. Her injuries were not serious and by the time I’d caught up on all of this, she was tucked up in bed with a hot water bottle.

‘I can never turn my phone off when I’m away from my kids’, was my takeaway.


A couple of years after that (just a few months ago, in fact), I was on holidays at the beach and went for a leisurely beach walk with my husband and two youngest children. I decided to leave my phone at the house because my oldest son is 19 and was back at home in Sydney and should be OK for an hour or two because he is 19 and also stop being a helicopter.

A few hours later, I was standing in a police station trying to describe a penis to a kind police officer who was diligently writing down words like ‘uncircumcised’ and ‘no pubic hair’. “Why didn’t you call us?” he asked sensibly after I’d told him about the naked man on the beach who had been sitting too close to women who were sunbathing alone and lurking around way too close to my children. “Because I was trying to be present and in the moment so I left my phone at home,” I said meekly.


Listen: The hosts of Mamamia Out Loud discuss nomophobia. (Post continues after audio…)

Another blow for mindfulness.

‘Nobody wants to have to describe a penis to a police officer so have your phone with you at all times’, was my takeaway (I wrote about that experience here in more detail.)

It came as no surprise to me to learn that “Nomophobia” (No Mobile Phobia – gettit?) is a new condition that describes the anxiety that accompanies not having your phone with you. A fear of being without your phone or without mobile phone reception.

According to Psychology Today, Nomophobia is responsible for some messed up behaviour:

  1. Sixty-five per cent, or about two in three people, sleep with or next to their smart phones. (Among college students, it’s even higher).

  2. Thirty-four per cent admitted to answering their cell phone during intimacy with their partner. (Hey, what happened to valuing the person you are with in-person?)

  3. One in five people would rather go without shoes for a week than take a break from their phone. (It’s a good way to lose your sole and your soul).

  4. More than half never switch off their phone. (I’d call that an addiction).

  5. A full 66 per cent of all adults suffer from “nomophobia.”

I have no answers. No suggestions. Just warnings: take your phone with you when you’re at the beach, away from your kids or at the park. Maybe it doesn’t need to come with you when you go to the loo or have sex. Baby steps.

Seriously though, do you have times when you deliberately leave your phone behind or turn it off?

If you want to read more from Mia Freedman…….

If you want to feel better about your phone addiction

Listen: You can hear the latest episode of Mamamia Out Loud, below.