If you read the recent articles published by current_Panos, entitled “Social Medea” and “More mobiles, less communication”, you are bound to enter a zone of further thoughts and questioning.
The abuse of mobile phones, the constant cyber communication, the verbal and sentimental expression of people through the use of social media (Facebook mostly) on a daily basis: they all constitute modern reality. I will not expand on the causes of these phenomena, nor the effects on a social level; because, from this point of view, the issue has been analyzed extensively by current_Panos. The question posed here is this: to what extent do these habits, which most of us are accustomed to, endanger our mental and physical health?
In reality, the abuse of mobile phones and, by extent, of the internet, compromises much more than the nonsensical waste of our personal time and our relationships with others: first and foremost, our mental health. According to recent research conducted by Nokia, one in five smartphone users check their mobile notifications more than 100 times a day; one in ten has sex with their phone in hand; while there is a certain percentage of people – teenagers in particular – who do not let go of their phone even when sleeping or showering. So far, one could very well exclaim that – despite the tragically high percentages reported by statistics – these are extreme, isolated instances.
But are they really extreme and isolated? How many times did you panic or feel sad because your mobile’s battery was dying and you were outside? Or get deeply upset because your charger wasn’t at your disposal? How many times did you resent the fact that your reception wasn’t good enough? How many times a day do you check that your phone is in your pocket and hasn’t fallen out? How many times did you arrange to meet friends at a place where reception is good – even though you hate the coffee? To a smaller or larger degree we have all – unsuspectingly – accepted these behaviors as a modern way of life: as lifestyle; at the same time when the scientific community has identified this exact human behavior as a mental illness, in the category of obsessive phobias, under the term Nomophobia.
The term Nomophobia derives from the abbreviation of the English words No More Phone Phobia and is now an officially listed modern mental illness. It is characterized by anxiety disorders and grief, which is exhibited by mobile phone users when, for some reason, their mobile is not functioning; quite often, it is even accompanied by clear symptoms of withdrawal syndrome.
According to research conducted in England, almost 53% of smartphone users exhibit this obsessive phobia; it occurs mostly in ages 18-34 years old, with women well in the lead. Ailing individuals are characterized by the tendency to check their mobile all the time, to charge it constantly, to take it along at any activity; while up to 72% of them also ensure that they are within a meter and a half from their device day and night. Furthermore, these people are very troubled sleepers; are tempted to lie about the amount of time they spend using their mobile phone; are stressed and saddened when it is not by their side; and check it secretly while partaking in various social functions. Finally, these people tend to get increasingly severed by their social surroundings and real association with other people; while running serious risk of showing symptoms of depression. All these types of behavior are a clear indication of dependence and, according to Dr. Phil Reed, Professor of Psychology at the University of Swansea, who specializes in addiction to digital media, the people exhibiting such behaviors often face problems regarding control of their impulses and/or distraction and/or need for immediate praise.
The basic problem with Nomophobia is that, by the time people deduce that they’re ailing, its symptoms have their claws dug deep into them. And this happens because there is no guilt or concern attached to the symptoms;
on the contrary, they are rather familiar to us and we consider them as normal reactions – habits of modern
people. We tend to disregard a group of teenagers, each of them sitting at a cafe behind individual raised walls,
simultaneously engrossed in their mobile screens. We say that these kids don’t have meaningful relationships
and don’t know how to spend their time together. And that’s as far as we go. No one transcends to the health
hazards these behaviors carry – mostly due to the lack of essential education. In this sense, education aiming at
prevention, even if it just means school seminars or a visit to the child therapist, is of vital importance and could
prevent further deterioration.
Furthermore, it is important to note that, apart from Nomophobia, the abuse of mobile phones can cause a plethora of other problems to our health. Namely:
It is common knowledge that myopia stabilizes a few years after one reaches adulthood. However, the many
hours of everyday usage of mobile phones has led to the phenomenon of evolving myopia, where we see more
and more people having to change their spectacles even at the mature age of 40. This is mostly due to the fact
that the light emitted by mobile phone screens, as well as the protracted focus of the eye on them, are
particularly damaging to vision. Meanwhile, when the eye is constantly focusing on a screen that is especially
close to it, the genes controlling myopia remain active; therefore, the disease doesn’t stabilize as usual – instead
Imaginary vibration syndrome
The fact that we are so accustomed to our mobile phone device and also the anxiety of an expected call create the
mistaken impression (illusion) that our phone has vibrated, either by a call or a text message. We rush to check
our device too often, convinced that we have received a text message or call; while, in reality, neither has
happened. This also constitutes a modern type of obsession; one which has reached worrying dimensions, if you
stop to think that a crushing 70% of mobile phone users suffer systematically from this syndrome, with 89% of
them experiencing an imaginary vibration at least once a week and 13% of them on a daily basis.
The many hours of occupation with a mobile phone on a daily basis can cause problems with neck pain, even in
young people. The human head is particularly heavy and can weigh even 5 kilos, depending on the person’s
general skeletal structure. One’s often and prolonged positioning with a bent torso and the head leaning forward,
as people do when using their mobile phones, can cause intense pain both to the neck and to the shoulders,
which may even develop into chronic myoskeletal inflammations.
In international terminology this is called Sleep Texting Syndrome. The term refers to a modern syndrome,
when the ailing individual writes and sends text messages (sms) while asleep, without having any conscious
choice in the matter. This syndrome is listed among the general sleep disorders, which are described to a greater
extent in the article “In the arms of Morpheus”.
Nausea – vertigo and lack of orientation
The extended focus of the eye on a mobile phone’s screen, combined with the 3-D characteristics that the latest
smartphones possess, can lead the user to the common occurrence of nausea and vertigo problems. A first
symptom that ailing individuals notice is the illusion that they are moving when, in reality, they remain perfectly
still. Further deterioration of this condition is demonstrated by the phenomenon of the user’s lack of orientation
in a space familiar to them. However, this problem can be dealt with quite easily, so long as mobile phone users
take care to interrupt usage regularly and focus their eyes on the horizon, for a few minutes – therefore resting
Carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis
Too many hours of chatting, too many text messages, as well as the many hours of internet gaming: apart from
our mind, they seem to cause discomfort to our hands too; this discomfort is demonstrated by the occurrence of
inflammation in the wrist and fingers. In the beginning, these inflammations may become evident through pain
or stiffness; yet they may evolve into a more serious condition. Such ailments are usually dealt by the use of a
splint and the prescription of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs. However, in more advanced or serious cases,
one may even have to undergo surgery.
Epileptic seizure symptoms
Scientific proof suggests that an intense visual stimulus can cause symptoms of an epileptic seizure. Video games
transmit regular intermittent visual stimuli to our eyes – that is, they shine the lights of our mobile’s screen at
great intensity and speed. This process can cause mild epileptic symptoms to people with a certain degree of
genetic predisposition; however, in people with stronger predisposition, it may even trigger a serious epileptic
seizure. Children are much more vulnerable to this phenomenon, given the fact that they often exhibit
particularly photo-sensitive types of epilepsy – even more so when the genetic predisposition is present. In any
case, as a preventive measure, it is wise not to allow children to play electronic games for many hours, as they
involve an intense alternation of colorful images.
Dry-eye and red-eye syndrome
Blinking is a procedure that helps maintain retina humidity to normal levels while, simultaneously, it helps
remove occasional foreign objects that may cause irritation. Focusing our eyes on our mobile’s screen for many
hours results in less blinking; thus our normal tears evaporate and our eyes redden and feel rather dry. If
prolonged, this condition can result in the decline of our visual sharpness.
The latest smartphones and the internet are an integral part of our lives. And, the way things have turned out,
they are accepted universally and are here to stay – indefinitely. Their glorification or excommunication are
extreme tactics. In any case, the best course of action is to use technology and all the potentials on offer for our
benefit and not to our health’s expense. In closing, I will borrow the phrase of friend current_Panos, who was
the one to introduce the topic (from another perspective) to Beauty Guard…: “The discussion ends, almost on its
own accord, to the wisest of all ancient Greek sayings, in just a few words: All things with good measure”. It is