Nomophobia is a term coined in 2010 by the United Kingdom Post Office, which commissioned research into the anxieties of mobile phone users. It stands for no-mobile-phone phobia, or the fear of not having access to a phone or phone service.
On February 3, 2017, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, responding in part to the antics of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, who streamed a post-game speech by his head coach, Mike Tomlin, on Facebook Live from his smartphone, vowed to “scramble” social media sites in the Saints’ locker room in the future. It was unclear what Payton meant exactly by “scramble,” but perhaps he was referring to using a filter on the locker room wi-fi service. Players could still access social media sites using the signal from their cellular service, however, making the overall effectiveness of Payton’s ban doubtful. A cell phone signal jammer would be an option if it were legal.
Payton’s proposed ban was his response to players’ increasing inattention as well, since they itched to check their phones for distractions instead of devoting their full attention to the business at hand in locker room meetings. These are men in their twenties and thirties, some of them making millions of dollars a year, and they cannot be relied upon to disregard their smartphones for more than forty minutes at a time while their head coach conducts a meeting. But then, considering the behavior some players exhibit during games, perhaps it should come as no surprise they are selfish and immature in other areas of their lives. We would more usefully order our priorities to not give the players and the game as much attention as we do.
No cell phones sign at a church in the Canary Islands. The message in English reads “Sacred Place – Silence Please”. Iglesia de San Ginés in Arrecife, Lanzarote, Canary Islands; photo by Frank Vincentz.
Whether it is a compulsion or an addiction that many people have to constantly check their smartphone for text messages, emails, or social media posts, is something they need to examine for themselves. The rest of us just wish they would stop checking, checking, and checking again, because it is costing us time and frustration, and in some cases our lives. Besides the everyday annoyances caused by compulsive smartphone users disrupting the enjoyment of theater-goers and patrons at restaurants and shops, there is the now nearly constant problem of being held up at a traffic light by the driver in front being too engrossed in their smartphone to realize the light has turned green. Such drivers build up road rage in others, and that’s minor considering the dangers they pose once they get their car moving.
A majority of drivers sensibly acknowledge that texting and driving is dangerous and are in favor of state laws prohibiting it, yet many of them continue to do it. You can see these drivers everywhere on the roads, bobbing their heads up and down like mechanical dipping birds as they look up and down from the smartphone they hold down just out of view of others – as if they’re fooling anyone – to the road and back again. The danger comes not only while they are looking down, but also for the first few seconds after they look up, because in that time their minds are elsewhere.
The Green Eggs and Ham Cafe at the Seuss Landing attraction of the Universal Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Florida; photo by Panoramio user BihnX.
Since some people can’t seem to stop themselves from texting and driving, and since enforcement is lax, it appears the only thing that will get at least some of them to stop is the kind of social disapproval that has built up around smoking in public over the past twenty years. It’s incredible now to recall that up until twenty or thirty years ago smoking in most public places was not only acceptable, it was the norm. People smoked in theaters, restaurants, and on planes and trains. Like enjoying green eggs and ham, people had a cigarette pretty much anywhere they liked. Speaking of green eggs and ham, now there’s an excellent idea: shut off that phone, smart or otherwise, and enjoy an attentive meal with friends or family, put the phone to sleep in the glove compartment while you drive to the theater, and then leave it in the car when you go in to relax and enjoy the show. Your dinner companions, the drivers you share the road with, and your fellow patrons at the theater will appreciate it, and it won’t kill you.