Addicted to Your iPhone? You’d Feel Right at Home in S. Korea
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Addicted to Your iPhone? You’d Feel Right at Home in S. Korea


Are you “addicted” to your iPhone? Feel you can’t go anywhere without your handy little mini computer notepad thingey? Feel crushing separation anxiety if you’re offline for more than a couple hours?

South Korea’s Biggest Passion

You’d probably feel right at home in South Korea, where the country’s mass collective “nomophobia” (aka gadget addiction, or “no-mobile-phone phobia”) has triggered the government to enact new laws, including a midnight curfew on gaming for kids under 16. The country is also considering enforcing a law that would extend that nighttime shutdown to smartphone gamers as well as distributing apps that would “censor potentially harmful content.”

As of January 2014, about 70 percent of South Koreans now use smartphones—a number that’s much higher than here in America (58 percent) and Canada (55 percent).

Maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising, though. The South Korean government has “aggressively embraced the web” as part of its successful development strategy. South Korea was the first place to introduce the superfast LTE-A network last summer and the country also plans to unveil a 5G network by 2017—a network that promises to let you download an entire film in all of one second (!!).

Silly Name, Scary Side Effects

Nomophobia may sound kinda funny and quirky, but it’s…not so much. A 2013 study of almost 200 adolescents in Korea revealed that those who used their gadgets frequently “couldn’t concentrate and even felt aggression, far more than those who didn’t use their phones as much.” And it’s been noted for a while now that using your smartphone before bed can make it harder to unwind and fall asleep, according to at least one study at the University of Michigan.

I know plenty of folks here in America that could qualify for a smartphone addiction. Hell, I might actually be one of them. Yup, I feel weirdly panicky and naked when I’m caught somewhere without my phone on me or if it suddenly dies. And yup, I’m loath to admit it but I’ve totally become one of those people who whips out their phone whenever they’re caught in a spontaneous moment without something else to focus on—waiting in line at CVS, pulling up to a stoplight, walking the dog.

Do I feel overly dependent? Yes. Do I feel particularly inclined to take action on this problem? No. Which is, possibly, part of the problem. Or maybe it’s just one of the reasons why I won’t be moving to South Korea anytime soon.

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About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.