Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Is "nomophobia" the fear of Hideo Nomo?

No: it's "no-mobile phobia"—the fear of being out of cell phone contact.

That has to be the dumbest phobia ever. It's dumb on at least two levels: first, people with nomophobia are lame. Second, the Greek nomos means law, so to my ears, nomophobia means "fear of law." Applying such a dignified-sounding term to cell-phone addiction is just wrong.

It's possible to establish a connection between the lame nomophobia and the fear-of-law nomophobia: our route lies through the work of Peter Berger, the sociologist who wrote the classic The Sacred Canopy, a succinct overview of the sociology of religion. Berger gently conflates* two Greek notions: law and order (nomos and kosmos) to give us his term nomos, which refers to the overarching and undergirding social order. A teenager experiencing anomie feels somehow separate or detached from this order. In a sense, then, a cell-phone addict deprived of his or her phone might feel great anxiety because of a perception (however false and distorted) that s/he has been cut off from the greater order.

I suspect that introverts are less susceptible to this nonsense than extraverts, who can be godawful needy. Come to think of it, that's one of the happiest aspects of my departure from Korea: while I'm going to miss the country and its people terribly, I will most assuredly NOT miss having a damn cell phone.

*To be fair, law and order imply each other, so I'm not accusing Berger of doing anything sneaky here. A system that runs on laws will automatically manifest order, and an ordered system must needs contain constraints (i.e., laws).



Anonymous said...

Cell phones are also a crutch that helps certain people with their own self-worth and their perception of importance in this screwy world of ours. A cell phone can make even the smallest of peons feel like a member of the corporate elite when taking a public call when out and about.

I felt that way when I got my first beeper. Luckily, it only lasted until I got my first early weekend page, and I came to my senses. It was also the same when I was in law enforcement, and I first carried a weapon in public. That "sense of importance" is like an addictive drug that many are too weak to kick. Not everyone can carry a weapon, or have a high-level job, but pretty much everyone in the industrialized world (would that be first, as opposed to third world?) can afford a cell/mobile/hand phone.

Jelly said...

maybe you're going to not have a cellphone just in time!

Anonymous said...

We don't actually have a landline anymore. After we moved into the new place, we debated it, but we decided that we could live without it. Most of the calls we got on our old landline were telemarketers anyway.

So it would kind of suck for me to be without my mobile. Not that I have a phobia or anything, of course.

By the way, when I first read the post title in my feed reader, I though the same thing that you did: fear of the law.

Anonymous said...

I haven't owned a phone for almost two years now. Naked dsl and internet services like Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger allow me to talk to anyone, and see them via video to boot, anywhere in the world as long as they have high speed internet for free. If I do have to call someone on their phone, it only costs me 1.9 cents/minute U.S. Currently, you can get Naked dsl in the states for less than $20/month from AT&T in certain areas.

Now, I only respond when I want to and am not bothered by calls at all hours or by telemarketers and their ilk. Silence is truly a blessed thing.