Nomophobia: Challenges and Management

Dr. Rajesh G. Konnur

The recent suicidal epidemiology among students due to Blue Whale gaming is alarming. Children, especially students are haphazardly using mobiles and electronic gadgets. The moment they are separated from their devices, anxiety and frustration hits them like a typhoon. Recent mental health literature research suggests that children and students suffering from nomophobia feel lonely with their phones and gadgets. Thus, these people isolate from real circumstances.

According to Envoy (2014), Nomophobia is defined as “the fear of being out of mobile phone contact”. The term, nomophobia, is an abbreviation for no-mobile phone phobia and it was first coined during a study by a U.K. Post Office in 2008 to investigate anxieties mobile phone users suffer. In order to refer to people with nomophobia, two other terms were introduced and colloquially used; nomophobe and nomophobia. A nomophobe is a noun and refers to someone who is affected with nomophobia. The term, nomophobic, on the other hand, is an adjective and is used to describe the characteristics of nomophobes &/or behaviors related to nomophobia.

The 2008 study in the UK, conducted on over 2100 people, demonstrated that some 53% of mobile phone users suffered from nomophobia (mail online 2010). The study also revealed that men were more prone to nomophobia than were women, with 58% of male participants and 48% of female participants indicating feelings of anxiety when unable to use their phone.

Another research study conducted by Secuor Envoy (2012), a security company in the UK, surveyed 1000 employees and showed that the number of people suffering from nomophobia increased from 53% to 66%. Unlike the 2010 study, the 2014 study that women were more susceptible to nomophobia, with 70% of the women compared to 61% of the men expressing feeling of anxiety about losing their phone or not being able to use their phone. In terms of the relationship between age & nomophobia, the study found that young adults, aged 18-24 were most prone to nomophobia with 77% of them identified as nomophobic, followed by users aged 25-34 at 68%. Moreover, mobile phone users in the age group of 55 & over were found to be the third most nomophobic users.

The recent definition by Nardi (2014), defines nomophobic as follows:

“Nomophobia is the modern fear of being unable to communicate through a mobile phone or the Internet… Nomophobia is a term that refers to a collection of behaviors or symptoms related to mobile phone use. Nomophobia is a situational phobia related to agoraphobia and includes the fear of becoming ill & not receiving immediate assistance.”

Another definition by International Business Times (2013) seems to put an emphasis on the feelings of anxiety caused by unavailability or inaccessibility of mobile phone.

Nomophobia or “no mobile phone phobia” is an anxiety which people face when they feel they could not get signal from a mobile tower, run out of battery, forget to take the phone with them or simply do not receive calls, texts or email notifications for a certain period of time. In short, it is a psychological fear of losing mobile or cell phone contact.

Nomophobia and smart phone addiction share many qualities, but the primary trait each disorder shares is that the smart phone is a source of relief and comfort. The key reason for this that smart phones have become central in communication and are perceived necessary to own in order to use the phone compulsively to the point where it can be defined as behavioral addiction.

Both nomophobia and Smart Phone Addiction Disorder have many comarbid disorders, two or more disorders within an individual , such as : anxiety and panic disorder, other forms of phobia (social phobia), obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, any disorder under the umbrella of depression from dysthmia to major depressive disorder, alcohol and drug addiction, as well as other behavioral addiction disorders (including mobile &/or internet dependence, gambling, online gambling, compulsive shopping and sexual behaviors) and personality disorders (borderline, antisocial and avoiding).

 Symptomology of Nomophobia:

The suffering client expresses multiple symptoms. The classical symptoms of nomophobia are anxiety, depression, trembling, perspiration, tachycardia, loneliness and even panic attacks in extreme cases.

Smart phone addiction & nomophobia share comarbid disorders such as social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorders, loneliness & atypical depression.  The DSM-5, states that non-substance addictions and conventional addictions have a high comorbidity with other disorders such as alcoholism and major depressive disorders.

Etiology of Nomophobia:

There are several causes/ etiology for nomophobia.

Psychosocial Role:

According to Clayton et al (2015), smart phone addiction may have psychosocial causes stemming from the need to keep in touch with others. One theory that supports that is FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) (Przybylski et al 2014). FoMO is defined as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent; FoMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing. Just like smart phone addiction and nomophobia, FoMO was established as a result of smart phone use and is based upon the psychosocial need to stay in good social starding with peers and to be constantly involved among in-groups. This may provide a connection with social groups & an outlet for daily stresses.

Embodied Cognition  and Extended Self:

Embodied Cognition can be defined as “psychological processes are influenced by the body, including body morphology, sensory systems and motor systems (Glenberg, 2010).  It can be further defined in more specific views. Margaret Wilson defined six views of Embodied Cognition as: cognition is situated, time pressured, we off-load cognition into the environment (such as maps and recordings to ease our cognitive load), the environment is part of our cognition [the mind did not evolve independently from the environment], cognition is for action, and off- line cognition is body based. Specifically, the third view that cognition can be off loaded onto the environment applies to smart phones. Since smart phones have internet connectivity, there is no cognitive task for calling declarative memories like facts and events. Instead of reinforcing memories, smart phones limit the ability to remember declarative memories with web searching.

Extended Self Theory is defined as “an individual’s possessions, whether knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally, can become an extension of one’s self”. For example, someone [basketball player or carpenter] who uses a tool (basketball or hammer) regularly encodes the tool into their neural network. The weight and dimensions of the tool are innate to the user and can manipulate the tool with ease compared to someone who has never used the tool. The Extended Self Theory can be applied to smart phone users as well. Clayton (2015) explains smart phone loss as the “unintentional loss of a possession which should be regarded as a loss or lessening of self”.

Digital/ Cyborg Anthropology:

Digital/ Cyborg Anthropology is a field of Anthropology that “explores the production of humanness through machines” (Gary 2005). Case (2007) stated that smart phones have “effects of widespread mobile telephony on the social and spatial relations of individuals in the post modern state”. Distinct from current phones, older phones were situated in one area such as the home or in telephone booth. Modes such as mail took time. These modes had time and space as factors and Case argues that because phones are mobile and in real time, phones can compress time and space, giving users more control over communication.

Case also argued that there is a “techonosocial movement where there is a degree of control over social interaction because of technology. Because there are no nonverbal cues such as facial movement or body position, she states that “a cell phone interaction provides one half of a conversation equation.” Posturing and making one’s image seems more socially desirable.

She also argued that phones provide a “liminal” space. Liminal in the context of mobile-phones is defined as “The intersection between face-to-face interaction and cell phone conversations is a “betwixt” & “between” social space, in which a caller is neither fully engaged with those who are physically co-present, not fully mentally co-present (except for the technically mediated auditory connection) with the person on the other end of the line and shows the isolation of smart phone communication.

Flow, Impulsivity & Reinforcement:

Many studies on phone addiction attribute phone use to either positive or negative experiences & reinforcement (Przybylski et al, 2013). The study measured flow, the mindset of an individual who is fully immersed and hyper focus in an activity whilst experiencing pleasure (known colloquially as “in the zone”) & convenience of a phone to the amount of use to see if there was a correlation. The researchers found that flow had a positive correlation with phone use but connivance allowed flow to provide instant gratification & positively reinforced smart phone use.

While flow is a positive reinforce for smart phone use, impulsivity may be regarded as the negative reinforcer. One study in particular found that impulsivity, the urgency to check a phone & the inability to focus on a task was positively correlated with perceived dependence of a smart phone (Billieux, 2007). In the context of addiction, impulsivity is associated with negative affect. If an addict feels negative emotions, they take their stimulus to stop the negative emotions. Billieux et al (2010) found that their participants used their phones when they were feeling “bad or “bored” & would negatively reinforce their behavior.

These patterns of positive & negative reinforcement follow the same pattern of behavioral addiction, which has been shown to follow the same neurological path as substance addiction in terms of reward & reinforcement (Grant, 2011).

Collectively, these rewards ( social gratification, more  control of social interaction through liminal space, offloading cognitive tasks, avoidance coping) compounded with consequences (anxiety, or nomophobia, FoMO, impulsivity, isolation) shows that excess smart phone use follows the same pattern as any addiction in terms of positive and then negative reinforcement, especially if the user has an existing disorder (social anxiety, depression, low self-esteem ) & that nomophobia can be referred as smart phone addiction.

You are Nomophobic when:

  • If you wake up in the night every two hours just to check your phone.
  • You check your phone even when you are having lunch or dinner.
  • You start to panic when your phone is about to run out of battery & you can’t rest until you put it on charging.
  • Feeling that you’re missing out on life when there is no signal.
  • Urge to answer the call, no matter how busy you are.
  • Taking mobile phone to wash room/ bathroom.
  • You’ve checked your phone twice reading this article.

It is detrimental because:

  • It causes anxiety. People suffering from nomophobia tend to suffer from anxiety when separated from their phones. This causes high blood pressure. It also reduces attention span of an individual, which can harm one’s work productivity.
  • It’s a colossal waste of time. Avoid looking at your phone, while doing other activities. Recent research suggests that this multitasking doesn’t work, as you can’t retain and process information at the same time.
  • It affects your sleep patterns. The blue light emitted from phone, signals to your brain that it’s time to wake up and it suppresses melatonin, the hormone responsible for dictating your sleep rhyme.
  • It leads to skin trouble. Constant contact with your phone can cause acne, allergies and dark spots. Other symptoms in long run seen are deafness and cancer.
  • It affects your relationship with friends and family, thus affecting your social skills. It’s considered rude if you constantly check your phone, when you’re talking to them.

Coping with Nomophobia:

  • Limit the use of mobile phone.
  • Turn off the mobile before going to bed.
  • Customize notifications in phone. Constant notifications from various apps in your phone are distracting.
  • Delete apps that are not required.
  • Use watch & calculator instead of apps.
  • Take phone breaks while working.
  • Balance screen time and in-person time each week. For every hour you invest in front of a screen, you invest in human contact.
  • Try a technology every month, where you actually go for a day or more without a computer, tablet or cell phone. You’ll feel liberated.
  • Place your phone at least 15 inches away from you sleep at night. This helps to keep you in a safer zone.
  • Block your day in time zones, where you spend time using technology, but also have blocks of time for organic, genuine interaction with people. Spend more time with friends and family. Limit your phone use, when you are with them. Watch films on a big screen, rather than on your phone.
  • Cultivate a habit of book reading, love the books.
  • Involve in sports, out -door games and in social activities.
  • Consult the health personnel if symptoms persist beyond control.

 

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Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime in India

Prapanna Lahiri

 

All the different types of taxes levied by the government can be categorised as direct and indirect taxes. Direct taxes are paid in entirety by a taxpayer directly to the government and cannot be transferred or shifted to another person. Income tax which an individual pays directly to the government is an example of direct tax, as the burden of the tax falls flatly on the individual who earns a taxable income and its incidence cannot be shifted to others. Indirect taxes, on the other hand, are those taxes which can be shifted to another person. Value Added Tax (VAT) is an example of indirect tax included in the bill of goods and services that one procures from others. The manufacturer or service provider, who pays the initial tax, later shifts the tax burden to the consumers by including the tax to determine the final price of the commodity or service sold to them. There are other indirect taxes such as Excise Duty, Countervailing (customs) Duty, Service Tax, (State) Value Added Tax/ Sales Tax , Octroi/ Entry Tax and Entertainment tax, the last three being levied by state and local governments and the rest by the federal government.

GST is “one indirect tax” for the whole nation. This will make the entire nation one unified common market. This one tax is meant to bring about a uniform system of indirect taxation as substitute of various such taxes levied by central and state governments as well as local authorities. Hence, GST is touted as one nation, one market and one tax. At present, more than 140 countries have tried this deviant scheme of indirect taxation in one or the other form. France was the first country to introduce GST in 1954.

India made history now, on the midnight of June 30 through the introduction of the bill in Parliament, on Goods and Service Tax (GST), the mother of all tax reforms. As stated above, this biggest tax reform post-independence seeks to amalgamate several central and state taxes into a single tax under one umbrella, to mitigate cascading or double taxation and thereby simplify the current system of indirect taxation. Accordingly, with the introduction of GST, central and state governments are set to abolish all multiple taxes (except customs duty) by simultaneously levying dual GST comprising of central GST (CGST) and state/Union Territory GST (SGST/UTGST) for supply of goods and services within a state or union territory. For all interstate supplies a single integrated GST (IGST), which would be the sum total of CGST and SGST/UTGST, is to be levied. Centre and state governments, except the state of J & K, have enacted laws to levy GST. Being a destination based tax the scheme of GST proposes to levy and collect tax on the basis of location of consumption of goods and services and not on the basis of location of their production. A single tax is proposed to be levied on the supply of goods and services at all stages, right from manufacture up to final consumption.  Credits of input taxes paid at each stage will be available for setoff in the subsequent stage of value addition. It makes GST, essentially, a tax only on value addition at each stage. In a nutshell, only value addition will be taxed and burden of tax is to be borne by the final consumer though his invoice will bear only the GST charged by the last dealer in the supply chain, with setoff benefits made available at all the previous stages.

Some substantive features of GST regime: GST works on the principle of Value added tax (VAT) with the basic objective of taxing the value addition at the each stage of business, achieved by allowing tax paid as set off/credit against tax liability on output/income. It is a comprehensive tax, levied on all transactions made for a consideration, in manufacture, sale and consumption of goods and services (except the exempted goods and services), at a national level which, in principle, should not make any distinction between goods and services for levying of the tax. Certain commodities such as Alcohol for human consumption, Petroleum Products (crude petroleum, motor spirit/petrol, high speed diesel, aviation turbine fuel and natural gas) and Electricity have been proposed to be left outside of the purview of GST for the present. Besides taxes on these products, real estate-stamp duty and property tax shall continue to attract taxes as per the structure prevailing before introduction of GST.

Basic methodology of GST is based on the principle of value added tax (VAT). For a simple understanding of the approach, the very common example of making of a shirt, at its different stages, may be considered.

Stage – 1:  The shirt maker buys raw material or inputs such as cloth, thread, buttons and tailoring equipment — worth `100 which sum includes a tax of `10. With these raw materials a shirt is manufactured.

Stage – 2: The shirt-maker adds value, say of `30, to the shirt by cutting and stitching it. The gross value of the product (the shirt) becomes (100+30) `130. At 10% rate of tax, the tax payable on output (the shirt) will then be (10% of 130) = `13. But under GST, a tax of `10 has already been included and paid against the price of consumed raw material/inputs and the same can be set off from this tax accrual of `13 on the output. Therefore, the effective GST incidence on the shirt maker is only `3 (13-10).

Stage – 3: At the next stage, after the good (the shirt) is purchased by the wholesaler from the manufacturer at `130, the latter adds his margin (surplus) of, say, `20 to the good, the gross value of the shirt he sells, thus, becomes `130+20= `150. Tax payable at 10% on of the wholesaler’s output (`150) will be `15. But under GST, from the tax of `15 payable on his output he is entitled to set off the tax of `13 already included and paid in the preceding stages on the good purchased from the manufacturer. Thus, the effective GST incidence on the wholesaler’s output is only `2 (15 – 13).

Stage – 4 (Final):  In the final stage, a retailer buys the shirt from the wholesaler. He adds value or margin of, say, `10 to his purchase price of Rs 150. The gross value of his sales, therefore, comes up to `150+10 = `160. The tax on his output at 10% rate shall be `16. But by setting off the tax paid on his purchase from the wholesaler (`15) against this tax now payable (`16), the effective GST incidence on the output of the retailer comes down to `1 (16–15).

Thus, the cumulative GST on the entire value chain from the raw material/input suppliers (who can claim no tax credit since they are assumed to have not purchased anything themselves) through the manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer is, `10+3+2+1=`16. The final incidence of tax falls on the final buyer (consumer) of the shirt. Against this cumulative tax of `16 on value additions realised at various stages of the value chain under GST the total tax payable under the erstwhile central excise/sales tax regime would have been `10+13+15+16=`54.

In the above simple illustration the difference in the tax incidence under the two regimes – central excise/sales tax and GST – clearly arises out of double taxation in the former where the raw material taxed at the first stage i.e. Rs.10 gets again included in the tax at the second stage, again at 3rd stage and finally at the 4thstage. This is what is called cascading effect i.e. tax on tax till the level of the final consumer. One main objective of Goods & Service Tax (GST) is to eliminate this cascading effect in indirect taxation.

One interesting take here in administration of GST is that invoices must be maintained in each successful stage of transactions by all parties to claim Input Tax Credit (ITC). If any tax is evaded at one stage, the same is captured at the next successive stage. For easy compliance a robust and comprehensive IT system would be the foundation of the GST regime in India. All tax payer services such as registrations, returns, payments etc., are designed to be made available to the taxpayers online.

Benefits of GST regime:

  1. Removal of cascading effect in indirect taxation will ensure seamless tax credits throughout the value chain and across boundaries of States. This would reduce hidden costs of doing business making it more competitive.
  2. GST will ensure that indirect tax rates and structures are uniform across the country, thereby increasing certainty and ease of doing business and making choice of location of business, tax neutral.
  3. With a comprehensive IT system in place for administration of GST making all operations online, tax compliance will be much easier and cost effective.
  4. Business will be immensely benefited by embracing the ‘one nation, one market, one tax’ regime. The existing indirect taxation system created borders within borders where tax laws, tax rates differed from state to state leading to distortions in the allocation of resources and indirect taxes. Unavailability of Tax credits for interstate transactions was a major hindrance in taking business decisions.
  5. The GST regime will facilitate free movement of goods, reduced transportation time and costs with elimination of entry tax and Octroi.
  6. Reduction in transaction costs of doing business would eventually lead to improved competitiveness for trade and industry.
  7. The subsuming of major Central and State taxes in GST, phasing out of Central Sales Tax (CST) and comprehensive set off of input goods and services would reduce the cost of indigenously manufactured goods and services. This will enhance competitiveness of Indian goods and services in the international market giving a boost to Indian exports.
  8. GST rates for most FMCG goods having been kept lower compared to the previous rate should lead to more demand and increased consumption in the sector.

As worked out in the simple illustration provided above it is apparent that indirect taxes accruing to the government under the erstwhile central excise and sales tax regime appear more than what would accrue in the GST regime indicating a loss of revenue to the government. But in real terms there existed wide spread of tax evasion in the central excise and sales tax regime. This evasion is not possible in the GST regime as a robust IT infrastructure is the backbone of the tax administration in this regime. There is an inbuilt mechanism in the design of GST that would incentivise tax compliance by traders. The IT systems in place, by bringing down cost of collection of tax revenues of the Government, will lead to higher revenue efficiency. This gain in efficiency of revenue collection, prevention of leakages and elimination of cascading effect of indirect taxation is expected to provide relief in overall tax burden on consumers. Finally, there is a scenario of the state governments suffering some loss in revenue collection in the GST regime. To overcome this loss, central government has decided to offer 5 year compensation to states.

Reference:

 

 

EMPTY NEST SYNDROME

By: Rajesh Konnur

Life is a bio-psycho-social change. Change occurs in every part of life. Gradual changes in social life process are the main focus of new era. Every individual has to pass through his/ her life stage cycle.

The departure stage in the family phase is when grown children leave home, also known as the period of ‘launching children’. Parents launching their last child go through what is usually known as the “empty nest”.

The Empty Nest as a Twenty First Century Phenomenon:

Most of the theorists, assume that empty nest period is inaugurated when the youngest child turns 18 or when a particular launching event occurs, such as marriage or graduation or leaving home and staying far away from parents due to socio-educational conditions.  In simple way, it refers to as a “letting go” of the children or having them “leave home”.

Empty Nest Syndrome is described as a feeling of grief, loneliness parents may feel when children leave home. It can also result in depression, loss of purpose, feelings of rejection, worry and stress and anxiety over children welfare. Other contributory factors are an unstable or unsatisfactory marriage, sense of self based primarily on identity as a parent or difficulty in accepting a change.

Parents also dealing with stressful life events like menopause, death of a spouse, retirement are more likely to experience the syndrome.

Research studies have shown that parents whose children leave home do not necessarily experience the grief associated with empty nest syndrome, majority experience increased marital happiness and more leisure time.

Common Emotions:

  1. Feeling Sad: Sadness is always a common perception in parents at the beginning of their child’s departure. However, this sadness will be reduced by busy daily life activities and by responsibilities.
  2. Loving Children: Missing loving children during meals is also one of the important emotions of empty nest syndrome.
  3. Anxiety & Denial: Worry, sadness, skipping meals is all symptoms of empty nest syndrome.

Coping with Empty Nest Syndrome:

Rediscover the love of your life:

This period can be challenging if a couple discovers that there are problems with their relationship they have not faced because having children around helped to cement their relationship. It can also be that after being parents for so long, they have forgotten how to be lovers. This is a time to talk honestly & openly about the direction of the relationship together & decide what happens next.

If the children were the only bonding force in your marriage, you both may need to work on your own relationship to restore what has been neglected.

Remember the past and look forward to the future:

Develop the mindset that you expect your spouse to have changed somewhat. You have both aged since meeting and been through many experiences that you did not envisage when you first fell in love. With time, people become clever about their likes, dislikes, preferences etc. Trying to see this as an opportunity to discover each other’s “new” selves can be a fruitful way to revive a flagging relationship.

Allow time for your relationship to blossom anew. Sometimes, none of this will patch up the reality that you’ve grown apart. If you realize that your relationship is beyond repair, talk it through, seek report at counseling clinics, pray together, and serve the Lord and His people together.

Talk to your child. Your child is probably feeling anxious and uncertain about his/ her new life, too. Reassure them of your love and support. If you feel that you have made mistakes or have regrets about your past approach to parenting, talk to your child about these feelings honestly and work to resolve guilty feelings.

Talk to your partner. Be honest about the emotions you are experiencing. Strive to be as sensitive to your spouse’s needs as he or she is to yours.

Respect your child’s new independence. Be proud of his or her achievements and maturity. Aim to be supportive, but give your adult child room to grow and learn from his or her mistakes.

Focus on the future, not the past. While it is important to cherish happy memories, anticipate even happier times to come, such as when you may become a grandparent.

Reconnect with your partner. Now that you are alone again, take advantage of the opportunity to spend time together and “date” again.

Stay active. Get involved in hobbies and activities. Try to exercise regularly and keep fit. Consider volunteering or going back to school to learn new skills. Use your time productively and creatively.

Join an empty nesters support group. Get to know others going through the same transitions you are, and share your stories and feelings.

Stay disciplined with money. With one less person in the house, you may have extra money. If you are not careful, this extra money can be frittered away quickly. Review your savings and investments and take steps to make sure you are on track with your retirement planning.

If feelings of sadness, anxiety or depression persist, contact a professional counselor.