So last week we talked about pogonophobia, the fear of beards. This week I have a new one for you: nomophobia, the fear of being without a mobile phone. Disappointingly it’s not derived from Latin or anything, it’s just short for ‘no-mobile-phone phobia’ – which does make me wonder if the phobia naming people are just phoning it in these days - but still, it’s my word discovery of the month.
According to a study by AppRiver reported in The Times this week, over 50 per cent of Britons now suffer from nomophobia. “42 per cent even take their devices to the beach!” it cried.
I’m skeptical on the first figure. Turns out they only surveyed 1000 “workers”, which doesn’t take into account the numbers of babies and children and elderly people who don’t have phones at all. But on the second point – why WOULDN’T you take your phone to the beach? Of all the places that being able to track down companions through the whizzy voodoo of mobile technology is useful, it is the beach.
Otherwise, what happens when little Jimmy goes off to find an ice cream stand with Zzapp lollies and ends up trailing for a mile and a half along the coast (because Zzapp lollies are actually the ultimate lolly, but woefully underecognised since the late 90s)? Pre-mobiles, I guess you either alerted the coastguard or just went home and admitted you never liked Little Jimmy much anyway.
Of course, I’m as nomophobic as they come. If I ever leave my phone at home by mistake, I spend the day convinced my whole family is going to die in a freak accident – which is a subset fear known as tree-falls-in-a-forest-a-phobia, ie. things might still happen in the world, even if I’m not immediately aware that they have.
It’s a conversation I often have with my mother, who suffers from the opposite fear: that if she has her mobile phone with her, and indeed turns it on, all kinds of dreadful people will immediately start calling and ruin her day. “Jane Bravo has her phone on! QUICK, think of a tedious excuse to ring her!” the masses would scream. Never mind that about six people, maximum, even have her number and half of those live in the same house.
“What if I was on my deathbed?” I demand, “and you had your phone turned off?” “Oh, I’d find out eventually,” comes the airy reply.
So I put it to you, survey people, which is worse: fanatical phone use, or people who would rather be told by carrier pigeon when their children are expiring in another part of the country? I’m off to hunt down a Zzapp lolly while you think about it.