Photo by Greg Rodgers
From trains and buses to restaurants and busy sidewalks, finding someone not furiously working their thumbs on text messages and status updates in Asia is a rarity.
And apparently, as with anything else, too much of a good thing can actually become an addiction. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to check on friends' statuses. Sounds far fetched, but cell phone addiction in Asia is on the rise significantly.
Even a new term has been coined for the strange addiction: nomophobia (no-mobile-phobia).
A recent study found 45% of Indian cell phone users in Mumbai between the ages of 18 to 30 to be severely nomophobic. All feel increased anxiety and can even suffer panic attacks when their batteries die or they run out of credit. (unlike in the U.S. where we tend to favor monthly contract systems, much of the world works on pre-paid mobile credit.)
With 884 million mobile phone users, India ranks second only behind China for mobile phone users -- and the potential for nomophobia.
Alexander Graham Bell probably had no idea that his patented telephone in 1876 would go so far.
At the close of 2011 the History Channel declared the smart phone to have evolved and changed the world more than any other device invented within the last century.
They may be correct. I have to confess that I've probably checked Facebook at least twice while writing this article.
While keeping up with social networks is fun, it could be hazardous to your health. Of the surveyed nomophobics participating in the India study, 25% had suffered walking or driving accidents while using their phones. More than 20% had pain in their thumbs.
But the problem isn't just restricted to Asia. A study in the UK found that men tend to be more nomophobic than women and that one out of two mobile phone users literally never turn off their phones -- day or night.
I have seen mobile phone use affect travel in unique ways as well. Although having maps, guides, friends, and recommendations at your fingertips can be a good thing, it does have a significant impact on your trip experience.
Only six years ago fellow travelers could be found sitting around in guesthouses, bars, and restaurants in places such as Haad Rin, Thailand, chatting about where they had been and where they found the best noodles. Now, I see the hostel common rooms a little less lively with conversation as people quietly ask for advice on Facebook and meet new travel friends via Twitter.
Use your phone while traveling, but keep in mind that there are far cheaper ways for calling home while abroad.
What about you - do you travel with a smart phone? Are you a self-professed nomophobiac?