by Dr. Bernie Furshpan


What is now termed, “No-mo-phobia,” (no mobile phone phobia), or fear of being without your smartphone, is affecting 40% of the population, according to the psychology community. At this point in our social evolution, smartphone technology provides the quickest and most efficient way to get information about those that affect you and those that you effect. I’ve read scientific articles about behavioral dependence on smart mobile devices and their close relationship to other forms of digital media overuse, such as social media addiction and internet addiction disorders. These articles allege that some mobile phone users exhibit problematic behaviors similar to substance abuse. My question is, “Where do we draw the line between normal use and abuse?” In my past work life, I’ve been called a workaholic. At the time, I believed that I was providing great customer service because I paid close attention to detail. I managed high volume businesses and I handled them with professionalism — which takes time, a lot of time. I didn’t always enjoy putting in a ton of time into projects and I’m sure it appeared to others that I had a work addiction problem. But it was because I truly cared about the people involved and the longevity of my businesses that I worked as much as I did. I was praised for the high quality service and product outputs, but as you know, getting this kind of feedback is not the result of sloppiness and laziness. So, was I addicted to work or doing what I needed to do to keep my businesses surviving and thriving?

Back to smart mobile devices. For the same reason, I don’t believe that the vast majority are addicted to them, certainly not the 40% of the population that is being claimed. This type of hyperbole encourages criticism by those who don’t have the same affinity to this technology. I do believe that if the technology detaches someone from those who care about them for a prolonged duration, it may require professional attention.

Professional psychology papers claim that you are addicted to your smartphone if you feel anxious when your phone is more than five feet away from you. Their assertion that if you’re constantly checking for new texts, feeling phantom cell phone vibrations, and not listening to the person in front of you, then you have an addiction problem. I don’t share the same sentiment. This is nothing new and we are very familiar with intense, focus-driven behavior. I recall tugging on my mother’s blouse while she was in a heated discussion with her friend, or spilling chocolate milk on a copy of the New York Times that my dad was reading with great intensity. If my memory serves me correctly, I drew a response I didn’t want. When someone is fully immersed in a movie, book, song, newspaper, conversation, an email or TV show, their behavior is similar — wholeheartedly engrossed. It’s considered rude to disturb someone who’s deeply involved and you should expect rejection if you interrupt their train of thought. I’ll bet that when the radio was released for public consumption, folks back then were just as engaged as someone watching a YouTube video today. Eventually, all new obsessions become the norm and the reality is that soon enough, interrupting someone writing a social media post won’t be tolerated. Bottom line, the issue is not about the medium of communications, it’s about what appears to be important to you and your sense of security — situations, justice and resolutions.

So here’s my piece about this topic and why you are affixed in a hypnotic trance, regardless if it’s a high or low tech medium. Your instinctive need for knowledge and sensual information is crucial to survival. You seek to associate with clusters of like-minded and like-hearted people because you know there’s comfort and safety in numbers. Groups run in herds to protect the individuals from the dangers of predators and to compete for resources required to survive. Organized bodies of individuals doing business together is not a new concept and goes far back to the beginning of time. It’s for the same reason, strength and safety in numbers, that subatomic particles joined forces in larger units, atoms and molecules, and single-celled organisms merged to form tissues, organs, systems, organisms and ultimately, societies. Under the microscope, you are a cluster of quivering cells huddling together to stay alive. On a grander scale, you’re doing the same with the groups you run with. This Universe is teeming with all kinds of survival activities by tiny and huge congregations of organized units of sub-groups, seizing resources, growing, evolving and surviving together.

In your own human experience, there are many ways low and high tech media keep you informed about the herds you run with. Throughout the history of humanity, ways in which we communicate have evolved. Natives interpret behavioral changes in the natural world for cues affecting their survival, prehistoric humans etched drawings in caves, we’ve attentively lent ears and peeled eyes to town criers, smoke signals, beating of drums, morse code, 24-hour news channels, text messages and digital images. They must have all taken hits with their early use. I recollect hearing, “You’re watching too much television young man!” How things have changed. Now, I’m boasting about binging 10 hours on a Netflix series, and it’s totally cool.

The underlying reason behind a selfie, posts about your insomnia, friendships and things you care about is to promote your value, or gain sympathy by others with the intention of reinforcing your role and position within the herds you run with. Your value to others gives you purpose, a catalyst to sharing your creativity, compassion, and love. It’s how you survive — by avoiding isolation and vulnerability to fallibility and decay, exposure and poverty, disillusionment and betrayal, theft and destruction, ridicule and humiliation, drudgery and bondage. These are the predators you’re keeping tabs on from the safety and comfort inside your group.

My true intention in writing this article is to help you realize the worthwhile effort in acknowledging the value of those around you, to make them feel special and part of the team. In doing so, you are reinforcing your own position within the group. That’s what leadership is about — pulling others into the comfort and safety of the team and out of harm’s way. If you’re incapable of making others feel that they’re invaluable to the group, then first find comfort in learning about what your value is to those surrounding you in the herds you run with.

The big picture for me is that your immediate group, the people around you, need your affirmation of their value to you. They get your attention first. Then go on and do the same to those needing comfort in your real and virtual groups Give us your best. Know your value. Recognize and acknowledge the value of others.


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