Nomophobia Is Putting Relationships At Risk, Experts Warn

Our constantly-connected lifestyles are not just putting our data at risk but our relationships too, finds Intel Security and behavioural psychologist, Jo Hemmings

  • More than three-quarters of Brits (79%) feel anxious or extremely anxious if they’re ever without their phone
  • And a third (32%) feel they have to fight with a connected device for their partner’s attention
  • With 38% of Brits opting to have difficult conversations via text or social media rather than face to face, Jo Hemmings explains that mobile phones cause a breakdown in communication
  • The issue is most pronounced with 18-25 year olds, who are twice as likely to have an intimate moment interrupted by a mobile phone than any other age group

LONDON. Smartphone dependency has reached new extremes, with 79% of Britons feeling anxious if they don’t have access to their phone at any one time. This fear of being disconnected from mobile devices, known as Nomophobia, is taking its toll on relationships and a third of Brits (32%) reported their partner seems more interested in their phone than them.

And it’s not just long-term relationships being impacted – more than one-in-ten people (16%) have found themselves competing with a mobile phone on a first date.

Double standards during dinner

Despite feeling like we’re battling for attention, Intel Security’s latest research revealed that more than half (53%) would check their mobile in social situations, with this number increasing to 65% among 18-25 year olds. However, almost three-quarters (73%) said they find it rude when their peers or partner pull out their phone when out for dinner, suggesting that we have double standards when it comes to mobile etiquette.

It’s not just dinner being interrupted. Over half (52%) of the 18-25 year olds surveyed said that a mobile phone had interrupted an intimate or romantic moment. That’s five times the number that would allow a mobile phone to disrupt a movie (3%).

So why are we so hooked on our devices? Jo Hemmings, behavioural psychologist, explains: “People are undoubtedly obsessed with their smartphones and it’s clear that the younger generation, in particular 18 – 24 year olds, are especially so. Every detail of their lives is stored in their handset – from photos, messages and emails to social media, news and dating.

“Phones have become behavioural comforters, in much the same way a baby chews on a soother or a blanket. It has become an essential part of social connectedness with the smart phone pretty much becoming an extension of themselves”, Hemmings continues.

Phones contribute to a breakdown in communication

Smartphones have infiltrated almost every corner of the British public’s lives, making it easier to stay in touch, get around and in some instances meet potential partners. However, Brits are increasingly using their phones as a means of avoiding awkward conversations, with almost two-fifths (38%) opting to text or message via social media instead of discussing issues face-to-face.

Hemmings comments: “Mobile phones affect relationships because, ironically, they cause a breakdown in communication. Even if two people are in the same room at the same time, while they are using their smartphones, they are not actually communicating with each other. People report feeling neglected because of their partner’s phone or tablet obsession. These feelings of neglect often turn into a deeper-seated resentment, where arguments and a complete breakdown in communication becomes more likely.”

Rules to regulate mobile use at home

Coming in second to a mobile phone may explain why 60% of couples now feel the need to place restrictions on devices being used in the bedroom. While physically putting down our mobile phones may benefit relationships, there’s such a wealth of data stored on our connected devices that even in the safety of our own homes, there’s the risk of personal information falling into the wrong hands.

Nick Viney, VP of Consumer at Intel Security states: “The mobile has revolutionised the way we live, with instant access to the internet at the tap of a finger. Our reliance on connected devices has not only impacted our relationships with those closest to us, but has made accessing personal information incredibly easy for ourselves as well as for cyber-criminals. Spending too much time on your mobile may mean you lose connection with your partner, but if you don’t have the correct security measures in place you could face losing even more.”

Top tips from Intel Security to manage a connected relationship

  • Consider what WiFi you are using.Using your neighbours free WiFi may save you some pennies but using open WiFi connections can put your personal data at risk
  • Vary your passwords. 25% of people have shared a password with a partner. Keep passwords secure and update them on a regular basis
  • Take control of your home network. The home network is the hub for all of your connected devices. New solutions, such as McAfee Secure Home Platform help you easily manage and protect devices connected to this network while providing parental controls with permissions that can be tailored to the entire household

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Survey Methodology

In December 2016, Intel Security commissioned OnePoll to conduct a survey of 13,000 adults (aged 18-55+). Respondents were individuals who use an internet-connected device on a daily basis and based in the following countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.

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