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Nomophobia: the irrational fear of being without your mobile phone


My name is Purbeck Wintour and I am a nomophobe.

There. I've said it.

If I go out in the car and I realise I’ve left my iPhone charging at home, I have a mini panic attack as all the wild and not so wonderful scenarios flash through my mind concerning how I’ll cope if I have a crash or breakdown (mental an emotional); what if I come across a lonely soul wandering the country lanes who flags me down and turns out to be a psycho of The Shining proportions, kidnaps and holds me captive in an abandoned grain store on the grounds of a large country estate, forcing me to read him the complete works of Tennyson every day, until after a year or so Stockholm syndrome takes hold, we kiss, and he confesses he is the (somewhat eccentric) Lord of the Manor, and moves me into his (sympathetically renovated) Edwardian pile where we…oh, sorry, ahem, enough of my fantasies…but you get the drift ;o)

Back in the old days - that is, those carefree, halcyon days of the 90s - everyone could recite important phone numbers off the top of their head; but today? I just about know my own number, I certainly don’t know anyone else’s, and truth be told, my kids don’t even know their own home number. In actual fact, it’s worse than that; the rolodex is dead, Jim. When I was young(er) *rolls eyes and purses lips* people had address books filled with the addresses, phone numbers, and often birthdays, of everyone they had ever met – and I mean everyone they had ever met. Today, as far as I’m aware, (and most of the time, as my friends will tell you, I’m really not that aware) all my numbers are stored in my phone and on a cloud. The only numbers I have written down are half a dozen close friends on the back of an old birthday card by the landline for my kids in case of emergency. And actually, 3 of those are not even friends; cab company, doctors, and err, pizza delivery. Oh, actually, the pizza delivery is redundant as they just order online using an app on their phones…

I’m so reliant (I refuse to say ‘addicted’) to my phone, that I used to carry a spare battery for my old Samsung Galaxy as I panicked at the thought of it dying on me. This mostly applied when I was on the beach, away from my laptop, enjoying some downtime with the sand between my toes and the waves lapping against the shore. Heaven. Only I’d often get pulled into some hilarious WhatsApp group chat that I couldn’t resist and spend next few hours chuckling away to myself as my friends and I from across the world indulged ourselves in some humorous, and ludicrous banter.

Now my iPhone doesn’t allow for a spare battery change, I get mild anxiety once it dips below 50%, and near full on panic attacks once it gets to 20%. Low battery warning has me turning into a deranged banshee, frenetically searching for a charger, hissing at friends; “my battery warning has come on, I’m on low battery, I can’t reply, I need to charge, christ no, don’t call me, I need to charge up, just stop!”

I have a very laid back friend who enjoys teasing me as she wantonly allows her phone to get to 2% before charging. Laying on the sofa, right beside the socket, she could just plug it in and carry on Instagramming as it charges, but no, she just loves showing me how low it’s going and how she doesn’t care.

“3%...see that?” She waves it in my face.

“What if you suddenly have to go out now and you’re only 3%? You should just plug it in now!”

“It’s 11pm. I’m moisturised and in my PJ’s. I won’t, ‘suddenly be going out.’”

“But what if there’s an emergency and you have to suddenly go out?”

“There are places to charge your phone in bars and restaurants now. If I have to suddenly go out at midnight on an emergency I’ll be fine.”

“What if there’s a power cut. You’ll be gutted you didn’t charge it sooner.”

“If there’s a power cut the wifi will go out so it doesn’t matter anyway.”

“Well, I’ll have a fully charged phone and 4G.”

“Will 4G still work in a power cut?”

“I dunno. Don’t really get power cuts anymore.”

“Well, if there’s a sudden emergency and a power cut and I need to go out, I’ll take your phone.”

Actually, I’m not totally convinced on this blasé approach. The other night, this same friend WhatsApped me at 3am leaving voice messages from the cab she was in on her way back to a bar she’d been partying at earlier. Having gone home, she was now afraid of missing out, so after a short power nap, and still drunk as a skunk, she was back in an Uber and making holiday plans with her new BFF, the driver, as she made her way back into town to re-join the party.

That was her excuse anyway. I have a theory she actually went home to charge her phone…

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