If the Ancient Greeks Had iPhone Separation Anxiety: Fitbippides | Beth's Blog

If the Ancient Greeks Had iPhone Separation Anxiety: Fitbippides

Digital Wellness

Noise to Signal Cartoon

As my work as a trainer pivots more towards leadership development in a networked world,  I’ve been doing more and more training on the topic of  mindfulness at work techniques.  The most recent session was about  walking as work and professional colleagues, like Rob Cottingham, have noticed.  He dedicated this hilarious cartoon to me and several others of his fitbit obsessed colleagues.

Taking long walks is good for you in many ways as this blog post from Canva points out.  It summarizes a lot of recent research on the benefits.  These are healthy benefits, improved cognition, increased creativity and productivity, and leadership development.    The article included a reference to iPhone Separation Anxiety where people do not like the idea about being away from their desks or electronic contact for any length of time.   While the article did not link to the scientific study, I was able to track it down, “The Extended iSelf:  The Impact of iPhone Separation on Cognition, Emotion, and Physiology” published in Journal of Computer-Mediated Communications.     So, does this mean that we should be completely chained to our electronic devices to avoid the anxiety which negatively impacts our work performance?


This particular study attracted a lot of media attention and I read through about 50 different online articles and posts.   I found this article in Psychology Today:  iPhone Anxiety:  It’s Real and Not Good For You to be particularly insightful.     First, the author looks at three other studies on this issue – all using different methods, but came to the same conclusion about the effect that mobile phones have on our daily lives:

Our smartphones make us anxious and that anxiety then gets in the way of our performance and our relationships. Some call it FOMO—Fear of Missing Out—or nomophobia—Fear of being out of mobile phone contact or FOBO—Fear of Being Offline. Regardless of what you call it, this disorder is a manifestation of anxiety, plain and simple. If someone is separated from their phone they get anxious (well, at least if they are heavy phone users which includes pretty much everyone under 35 or so). And that anxiety is driving their ability to attend to others around them as well as their work. Countless studies show that people are switching from one task to another every 3 to 5 minutes (yes, that is right!) and the stimulus for those switches is most often an alert or notification from their omnipresent smartphone.”

The article offers a few self-assessment points to help you figure out how to better take care of yourself and figure out if you are suffering the effects of iPhone Separation Anxiety:

  • If you keep your phone in your pocket have you ever thought it was vibrating and yanked it out only to find that you were mistaken? That is actually a disorder
  • Where do you carry your phone? If it is in your hand so you don’t miss an alert, then you have a problem.
  • Do you sleep with your phone?  Many people do, including some of my colleagues. You need to put your phone way at least an hour before sleep to avoid disrupting your sleep.  In other words, checking your email before you go to bed hurts your brain.
  • How do you feel when your phone is not close at hand? If you leave it in another room do you feel the need to go get it immediately?
  • When you eat dinner or other meals with family or friends, is the iPhone on the table or within inches of your fork?

As a heavy mobile phone users, I found this study and information quite eye-opening and have been trying a few techniques break free of mobile phone separation anxiety:

1.   One-Hour Walk in the Morning Without Phone: There are many times when I do take my phone on a walk with me, but I’m leaving it on the table in the mornings when I do my one-hour morning walk before work.   I found myself getting in the habit of checking my fitbit or email while I was walking – and I wasn’t feeling the full benefit of my hour of solicitude.   I admit it was hard to do at first, but I got over it.

2. Face Down During Meetings: I leave my phone in my purse or face down on the table and only use it when I need to check information as part of the meeting.

3. Mobile Phone Stacks: This is when everyone turns off their phone and stacks them in the center of the dinner table with the rule that anyone who touches their phone before the bill comes has to pay the entire bill to keep everyone’s attention to the people at the table.   As a family of four with everyone having their own cell phone,  this is also a dinner table rule in our house.

4.  Don’t Use Phone As Alarm Clock: If you use your phone to wake you up, you can fall into the bad habit of checking email or social media first thing in the morning.  That’s not a great way to start your day and be productive and could lead to mobile phone separation anxiety.    Experiment with a morning routine that is a technology mini-fast and that means buying a clock radio!

Do you suffer from Cell Phone Separation Anxiety?   How have you kicked it?  What worked?

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