A new study provides insights into factors that influence the fear of being detached from one’s mobile phone, otherwise known as nomophobia. A key discovery was that the improvement of interpersonal problem-solving skills equated to a decrease in nomophobia. Additionally, emotional intelligence was found to be related to stronger interpersonal problem-solving skills and lower stress. This study was published in the Journal of Technology in Behavioral Science.
Mobile phones are ubiquitous and use of this technology is deeply embedded into our daily routines. Inevitably, modern-day psychological conditions have arisen, one of which is coined nomophobia (‘no mobile phone phobia’), which describes the discomfort or fear that individuals experience due to being away from mobile phones for long periods.
Published literature has primarily focused on how factors such as academic performance, loneliness, and attention are related to nomophobia. In the current study, the team led by Fatma Gizem Karaoglan Yilmaz from Bartin University in Turkey proceeded to expand upon this.
A theoretical framework was initially put forward by the researchers which outlined the relationship between nomophobia, emotional intelligence, interpersonal problem-solving, perceived stress, and self-esteem.
They proposed that individuals with nomophobia are likely to feel stressed from uncertainty and lack of control that stems from an inability to communicate and a loss of connectedness without their phones. Additionally, individuals with high self-esteem are often skilled at social interaction, whereas nomophobia individuals may have low self-esteem and find difficulty generating connections with others, further contributing to stress.
Yilmaz and colleagues also proposed that high emotional intelligence, i.e. a strong ability to understand and manage emotions, can prevent the development of nomophobia, and subsequently reduce stress that would be associated with the disorder.
Finally, individuals with strong interpersonal problem-solving skills are likely able to manage their emotions (i.e. have high emotional intelligence) in order to mentally solve encountered problems. The authors suggested nomophobia individuals have difficulty forming interpersonal relationships and therefore difficulty managing stress.
Hence, this research study aimed to explore the accuracy of this complex hypothetical framework in undergraduate students.
Data was collected from 543 undergraduate students (57% female, 43% male) who volunteered to take part in the online survey. Questionnaires were employed to measure these five factors of interest – nomophobia, emotional intelligence, interpersonal problem-solving, perceived stress, and self-esteem.
A statistical tool called path analysis was employed, which allowed Yilmaz and colleagues to unravel the connections between the five factors to understand how they work together and influence each other, and finally came to a few key conclusions.
Contrary to what the authors initially believed, emotional intelligence did not have a direct effect on nomophobia.
An increase in emotional intelligence was found to increase interpersonal problem-solving skills, and this was the strongest association found amongst all of the associations analyzed. In other words, individuals who are better at understanding their emotions tend to be better at solving interpersonal challenges. The researchers also found that as interpersonal problem-solving increased, there was a decrease of nomophobia.
Moreover, an increase in interpersonal problem-solving would lead to a decrease in perceived stress. “When interpersonal problem-solving skills are examined, it shows that communication between people is important. It is known that nomophobia individuals have difficulties in social communication,” the authors explained.
“Furthermore, interpersonal problem-solving is also [known] as social problem-solving. [Individuals] experiencing these difficulties experience high levels of stress. It can be said that individuals who are successful in interpersonal problem solving situations can also be successful in communicating in their social life. In such a situation, they are good at managing the source of stress.”
Additionally, an increase in emotional intelligence would also lead to a decrease in perceived stress. Yilmaz and colleagues concluded, “individuals who cannot actively and effectively use their emotional intelligence are unable to properly direct their emotions in crises.” However, nomophobia did not directly affect perceived stress.
Finally, an increase in perceived stress led to a decrease in self-esteem. “In instances of overuse of technology, people have low self-esteem, and their perceived stress levels may rise due to this use. … Given that individuals with low self-esteem have trouble interacting socially, they may become more dependent on technology, which can negatively impact their ability to cope with stress.”
While this study provides valuable insights into the complex relationship between nomophobia and various psychological factors, limitations must be considered. For example, the research focused on undergraduate students, restricting generalizability to an older population and individuals in the workforce.
The study, “The Relationship Between Nomophobia, Emotional Intelligence, Interpersonal Problem‑Solving, Perceived Stress, and Self‑esteem Among Undergraduate Students”, was authored by Fatma Gizem Karaoglan Yilmaz, Ramazan Yilmaz, and Fatih Erdogdu.