We have heard of all sorts of phobias, claustrophobia, hydrophobia and more. The latest addition is nomophobia. It's the ‘no mobile phone phobia'— in other words, the fear of finding oneself without the mobile phone. It had to happen sooner rather than later, given our addiction to those small gadgets.

As with any other addiction, the absence of the addictive substance causes ‘withdrawal symptoms,' and, in extreme cases, mental and physical breakdowns. So it is not surprising that people live in constant fear of forgetting to take their mobile phones or losing them. Understandably, people always clutch it in their hands or hang it around their necks. Such is the grip of this invention over the human psyche.

In a recent survey in the U.K., 66% of the people surveyed admitted to this fear of losing their mobiles. And of this group, it was the young adults in the 18-24 group that tended to be the most addicted, unable to be separated from their mobiles for more than a few minutes. This phobia brings along with it another ‘obsessive compulsive disorder' — that of constantly peering into the mobile.

Observe anyone. Every few minutes, they press the green button, knowing full well that there is no call or message. The explosion in the varieties of mobiles, I-Phones, smartphones and what not and the plethora of applications have only added to the problem. From browsing the internet to gaming, to video-streaming, to mobile-banking, a mind-boggling spread of ‘user apps' entices people to be ‘connected' always. Stay connected is the catchword.

But why this nomophobia? Because we sybarites need to babble and chatter. Everyone is talking away as if their lives depend on it. From the impecunious vegetable vendor to the smartly dressed executive, from the hierophantic temple priest to the bus driver, from the insouciantly sashaying college student to the shopkeeper, there is no one who is not holding the handsets to their ears or in their hand. Either they are texting, playing games, browsing the net or, out of sheer ennui, in a sort of involuntary reflex or jactitation, they keep pressing the buttons.

The two-wheeler drivers drive with the mobiles sandwiched between the shoulder and the ear, the head bent at an angle. Car and bus drivers drive with one hand, the other hand embracing the mobile, knowing pretty well that it is dangerous. Even God is not spared these travails. The priest simultaneously performs the rituals, chanting the sacred syllables, and nonchalantly answers to a call.

As we genuflect before the Lord, one eye is on the mobile. As we board a public bus, there will invariably be some persons who are already ‘on line' and who continue with their soliloquies even after getting down or after we alight.

Agreed, we live in a wired up world, where technology rules the roost; where information holds the key to success; where convenience takes precedence over other considerations; where timely communication can mean the difference between profit or loss, between success and failure or even between life and death. And the cellphone is an indispensable part of life. It makes life so much more easier; and enjoyable, for us to be able to talk with anyone, anywhere, instantly.

But must we allow ourselves to be ‘ruled' by it? Can't we even sleep undisturbed without this intruder? Must it even accompany us into the toilet? When an overwhelming majority of scientific studies show, albeit inconclusively, an increased incidence of brain tumours in continuous cellphone users, must otherwise healthy people knowingly expose themselves to the risk? As it is, our lives today are literally ‘poisoned.' From chemical-laden fruits, vegetables and foodstuffs, from air, groundwater and noise pollution, from electromagnetic radiation-emitting computers, microwaves and medical devices, from the foetal to cadaverous stage, it's one uninterrupted toxic bombardment. Can't we restrict this cellphone usage to the minimum, only for absolutely essential requirements? And save ourselves more trouble? And nomophobia?

(cdel_iso@confidental.org)

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