TODAY -

Hey smartphone! Free me from your spell

Samarjit Kambam *



Whenever I possess an item be it electrical or electronic, the items or appliances would stop functioning just after one week or one month of expiry of warranty period. Now, my LED TV is not functioning anymore. But that doesn't bother me much. I hardly watch TV, besides it's a blessing in disguise for me as my kids don't have to spend hell lotta time in front of the TV.

My washing machine is also not functioning except for the dryer. However, I have a living washing machine in my house of "Lairenmayum made". Problem solved for the washing machine. What really comes as a shocker to me is that my smartphone stopped functioning recently. Prior to that my life seemed to go on smoothly but now absence of my smartphone is leaving me in a state of great discomfort and unstability.

After frantically going from one cell phone repairing centre to another, my smartphone was beyond repair as it has been found out that one of the IC was deep-fried. The people at the servicing centres told me that there was nothing they could do as the small integrated circuit is not available anymore.

A guy with a fat purse could have purchased a brand new smartphone the moment he was using went phut. Me being a poor guy have to wait for a few days to buy a new one. Little did I knew that, during that transition phase, without any smartphone with me, my life would get so much affected. I felt like one of my sense organs was not working. However, it's all psychological.

At the initial phase, my hands would automatically shove inside my trouser pockets for my smartphone. When I found empty pockets, a tinge of surprise hit my brain accompanied by a 'hard to believe' feeling that I don't have a smartphone anymore followed by restlessness, listlessness, mood swings and a little bit of anger. There was not any 'feel good factor' without my smartphone. I feel like being drowned in a pool of stress hormones, feel like going round in circles and getting depressed. Signs of withdrawal symptom due to non-availability of smartphone, I guess.

Experts opined that absence of smartphone for those using them excessively affects the user both psychologically and physically. My mind rejected such statements as totally outlandish, exaggerated and manipulated until it happens to me. Now I am always associated with FOMO (fear of missing out) or left behind at the pace with which the world goes. Even though I hardly play games, surfing the net for news and information and entertainment has become a part and parcel of my being. It is said that addiction is a disease.

Could this be a disease or a mental disorder? Somewhere I have heard the term for smartphone addiction. Oh! Its called "Nomophobia" (fear of not having or losing a cell phone). Sometimes I wondered to myself whether I have become a Nomophobic.

Nowadays, the android smartphone manufacturers are putting in more and more features alongwith app developers coming up with newer apps that totally absorbs your senses making you lose track of time. Sometimes I wish that the advancement in cell phones do not exceed the age of keypad era with a small screen used only for communication purpose.

Now, at the intensity with which a smartphone user relies on his cell phone, the withdrawal symptoms of not having or losing one are found to be quite horrendous. With smartphones being constantly improvised by expanding upon their functionalities, now I have come to terms with the ground reality that such improvisation in turn increases the likelihood of overuse leading to cell phone dependency and addiction.

Although cell phone addiction is not yet listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), researchers has compared it to gambling acciction which has clearer diagnostic criteria and is included in the DSM-5. Now, I am developing restlessness, irritation, depression and anxiety in the absence of my smartphone and the tendency to use it even seems to increase, a price I am paying for pre-occupation or excessive use of smartphone.

All the smartphone junkies fume when there is poor or unreachable network as they browse the net. So, just imagine the absence of a smartphone not to mention poor network. Sometimes I ask to myself "Am I really addicted to smartphone?" Even though I am not a person from the medical profession, I carried out some self-assessment. I have realised that I had spent a lot of time by getting glued to my smartphone in the past many years even though there were better or more productive things to do instead of spending more time texting, tweeting, e-mailing, youtubing, going to virtual social media domains etc., as opposed to talking to real time people. I was drowned in the virtual world, spent more time virtually than I should have done in the real world.

Whenever I leave my house, I always have my smartphone with me and feel ill-at-ease or uncomfortable when I accidentally left it at home. When I eat meals, my smartphone was always part of the table place setting and whenever my phone rings, beeps or buzzes I feel an intense urge to check for texts in Whatsapp, tweets, e-mails or updates and there were times where I found myself mindlessly checking my phone many a times a day even when I knew that there was likely nothing new or important to see. As a result my mind and body constantly remains under stress due to this habit of checking the smartphone after short intervals.

Even on a holiday or when on an outing where I was supposed to feel stress-free, I would check my smartphone first thing in the morning and the chat with my Whatsapp group made me get anxious about my work thereby spoiling the day from the very morning. After a long and hectic day at work, I usually use my smartphone to relax but ending up with more stress with my eye muscles getting strained and my energy level deteriorating.

Instead of getting relaxed, I find myself in a state of anxiety. Sometimes, while getting glued to my smartphone as I lay on the bed, I tilt my head forward or sideways putting a strain on my neck and back resulting in a disturbed posture as this tilting of head puts a lot of stress on my neck, shoulder and cervical spine which leads to back pain. What adds to the irony is that once I get plugged in to a social network site, I find it hard to unplug as I get totally hooked getting me more and more into the virtual world distancing myself from the real world, a really bad habit. Sometimes I felt that my smartphone was controlling me, not me controlling it as if my body and mind has been totally invaded by it.

A lot of depression was caused when I anxiously waited for a text-message or a call but did not receive one. After excessive and constant use of my smartphone I find myself unable to look away from it. The status quo gets so worse that I feel angry when my smartphone phone gets taken away from me by someone even though for a few moments. I got so dependent on my smartphone that I couldn't keep it away while driving, eating, reading, talking to someone, etc. Moreover, when I can't use it at work, I was desperate to use it after working hours which not only puts stress on my mind but to my body as well.

Here I want to bring home the point that we the human beings are social creatures. We're not meant to be isolated or to rely on technology for human interaction. Socially interacting with another person face-to-face, making eye contact and responding to body languages make us feel calm, safe, understood, and quickly put the brakes on stress. Interacting through text, email or messaging bypasses these non-verbal cues so we won't have the same effect on our emotional well-being. Besides, online friends can't hug you when a crisis hits you, visit you when you're sick, or celebrate a happy occasion with you.

We are so much influenced by our smartphones that it's hard to imagine a world where smartphones don't exist. By using our smartphones, we disconnect ourselves from the real world.

Cell phones were invented to keep us connected to the world. However, in today's world we have taken it to the next level by isolating ourselves from the real world, the price of technology we are paying. Compulsive use of the Internet and smartphone apps have caused me to neglect other aspects of life, from real-world relationships to hobbies and social pursuits. Now I realise that I have become monophobic. Pity me. I am sure the same applies to most of you also.


* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on 07 May, 2018 .


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