Curing nomophobia: smartphone detox at home

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Do you suffer from nomophobia --- no mobile phone phobia?

Symptoms include panic over losing your phone and obsessively checking for messages.

You might know it as cell phone addiction.

We laugh about it, but take a look around and you see it happening.

We showed you what happened when we asked a few dozen people to participate in a very unscientific experiment to track their daily phone use for one week.

All together, our participants averaged three hours a day on their phone, picking it up every 20 minutes. They would each spend an average of seven years on their phones if they maintain that amount of usage the rest of their lives.

By no means are we saying cell phones and technology are bad, but as we've worked on this story the last several weeks, we recognize we all need boundaries and limits.

That includes taking our phones home from work with us each night.

"I do think that phones control a lot of people's lives, because it's a part of us now," says Kirin Pandit, an Action 2 News producer who also participated in our unofficial study. "We go everywhere with it."

Yes, everywhere.

And when you forget it -- panic.

"You can feel it. It feels like something's wrong," says college student Haley Falcon.

We asked 31 people, with wide-ranging ages and jobs, to track every minute of phone use for a week.

They recorded plenty of movie-watching, Facebook scrolling and texting, but they also discovered they're doing plenty of work.

"It brings my work home with me, and my home to work. it kind of blurs the line," says psychology professor Georjeanna Wilson-Doenges.

If you're nodding in agreement, you're not alone.

When our email and all-access to work is right there in our phones, leaving the office doesn't really mean we leave our work there anymore.

"You have to limit it," says Dr. Lynn Wagner, an integrative lifestyle medicine physician with BayCare Clinic.

She says not having an off switch just isn't good for us.

"It doesn't ever give you that down time, so we all need this balance between our activated, intense, working type part of our brain and body, but we also need that down time," she says.

In order to be productive and creative and all the things bosses want, Dr. Wagner says we need time away, even from the quick "I'll just check my email for a minute at home" thought.

"They email you and you reply right away. When you reply to texts right away, when you respond to work stuff in the evening hours, the people that are sending them get used to you responding. They think, oh, she's always available. She won't care if I do it again," Dr. Wagner points out. "It's going to affect your evening hours, your relationships with your family, your sleeping hours, and then over time, you're just going to wear out and burn out basically."

So like we tell kids, Dr. Wagner says setting boundaries is a good start.

"If you catch yourself going on that slippery slope of the first thing you do when you wake up is go on social media, or check your email or scrolling through the news feed, just start to watch your habits and set parameters," she says.

Many of the volunteers in our experiment needed only to see their daily phone use, documented in hours, staring back at them to want a change.

"I love it. I love it, because I've really reduced my phone usage," says account executive Mark Smolik. "Here's what I did. When I was going to pick up my phone, I asked myself, am I doing it for a good purpose? If it was yes, then I'd pick it up and use it, but if I'm just going to go browse Facebook, I'd leave it down."

Change won't come that easily for many of us.

"I'm still going to be on my phone for five hours a day, I guess. Yesterday was only three hours though!" jokes Pandit.

But at least it's a start.

"It's just being aware and making changes and parameters and knowing you're not going to be perfect and continuously trying to reign yourself in," says Dr. Wagner.