Fear Of Being Offline (FOBO) - The Digital Epidemic: An Effects Study on Smartphone Usage by Undergraduates in Academic Institutions
In today's era of hi-tech gadgets of mass communication, smartphones are an integral part of individuals' lives. It is helping students to expand their information and communication flow by providing enormous opportunities and divergent activities like social networking, texting, downloading, listening and playing games to name a few. Though they may be in the class, on a walk, riding a bicycle and motorcycle or even driving the car, they are preoccupied with their smartphones. Such behavior has been reached to an alarming level as they cannot stay away from their smartphones because of addiction. Considerable literature is available to diagnose the behavior familiarly known as Fear of Being Offline (FOBO) or Phone Separation Anxiety (PSA) or Nomophobia. The seemingly heavy reliance and obsession has virtually created a digital epidemic world that carries potential harmful effects on students. This study addresses this issue from the college students' perspective identifying correlation between smartphone usage and FOBO vis-à-vis its effects, needs and gratification on students enrolled in the three academic institutions of College of Applied Sciences, Nizwa, Sultanate of Oman. Based on the scientific test developed by researchers of Iowa University, the results show heavy dependency on smartphones as 88 percent of the students have either moderate or severe nomophobia. Its effects are quite uniform among students of all ages, level of studies, exposure to the smartphone and the gender.