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Taylor Swift, the ice bucket challenge, and Justin Bieber’s Calvin Klein ads have all “broken the internet,” but what would you do if the interwebs were really down? Would you feel lost without Instagram? Do you struggle to put down your phone? Are you among the 75 percent of students in our recent survey who admitted to texting someone in the same room? If so, you may be nocial. Both introverts and extroverts can acquire this 21st-century condition. Find out if you are nocial, why it matters, and what to do about it.

#1

You’re on a date with the person you like (a lot). Are you on your phone?

Yeah, more than twice

You’re nocial

Uh-oh, nocial alert. “Some students use their smart phone as a way to cope with [uncomfortable] social situations,” says Dr. Fjola Helgadottir, a psychologist at Oxford University, UK. “As a result…you miss out on an opportunity to confront your fear, which is the best way to improve.” In a recent survey by Student Health 101, one in five respondents admitted to checking their phone multiple times on a movie date.

Tips…

  • Before your date, wrap a thick rubber band around your phone. If you reach for it, the rubber band will act as a tactile reminder to leave your phone alone.
  • “Leave the phone at home. It’s scarier because you don’t have a barrier to hide behind, but it’s worth it,” says Amelia M., a third-year undergraduate at Utah State University. Less drastically, just keep your phone turned off so you’re reminded not to use it except in emergencies.

No...well, maybe once or twice, max.

You’re social

Congrats, you’re social.

Tips…

  • Before your date, wrap a thick rubber band around your phone. If you reach for it, the rubber band will act as a tactile reminder to leave your phone alone.
  • “Leave the phone at home. It’s scarier because you don’t have a barrier to hide behind, but it’s worth it,” says Amelia M., a third-year undergraduate at Utah State University. Less drastically, just keep your phone turned off so you’re reminded not to use it except in emergencies.
#2

You’re eating with friends.
Do they tell you to put your phone away?

Yes, unless they're on their phones, too.

You’re nocial

Guess what, you’re being nocial—you and 30 percent of the students who responded to our survey. Research shows that being around other people in person makes us happier than being alone. When you’re happy, you can make other people happier too, according to a 2008 study by researchers at Harvard University.

Tips…

  • Make the change. “Smile at them. Hug your friends when you see them. Be a human, just like humans before the age of smart phones,” says Ann B., a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
  • Play the phone stack game. “When you’re dining out, everyone can place their phones in the middle of the table. The first person to give in and grab their phone has to pay the tab,” says Taylor F., a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of Hawaii. Come up with consequences for other situations.

No, my phone is already away.

You’re social

And your life is richer for it.

Tips…

  • Make the change. “Smile at them. Hug your friends when you see them. Be a human, just like humans before the age of smart phones,” says Ann B., a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
  • Play the phone stack game. “When you’re dining out, everyone can place their phones in the middle of the table. The first person to give in and grab their phone has to pay the tab,” says Taylor F., a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of Hawaii. Come up with consequences for other situations.
#3

You have just been notified that you’ve made a team or been awarded a scholarship. How do you first share the news?

Post “I did it!!! :-)” on social media.

You’re nocial

Sharing positive experiences in person makes us happier in the long term, according to the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (2012). We don’t get the same level of social support via Facebook, a study in the Public Library of Science journal suggests (2013).

Tips…

  • Long distance? Use Skype or FaceTime. “Video calls are often clearer and you can see their live reaction,” says Nicholas T., a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles.
  • Uninstall a social media app from your phone. You can still log on from your computer, but you won’t be constantly checking it when you’re out.

Hunt down your friends and tell them in person.

You’re social

You’re social on this one, like three out of five students in our survey. “Face to face [is best because] you can see emotions. Texting is emotionless, even with emojis,” says Catherine L., a fifth-year undergraduate at the University of Alberta.

Tips…

  • Long distance? Use Skype or FaceTime. “Video calls are often clearer and you can see their live reaction,” says Nicholas T., a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles.
  • Uninstall a social media app from your phone. You can still log on from your computer, but you won’t be constantly checking it when you’re out.
#4

When you’re in bed, do you text and check social media?

Of course, scrolling through updates is how I unwind.

You’re nocial

You’re a nocial night owl. In our survey, 4 in 5 students admitted to texting or checking social media in bed. You know it’s wrecking your sleep, right? And lack of sleep wrecks everything else. “Using a phone or a tablet sends a signal to your brain that says, ‘Hey, this is wake-up time,” says Dr. Shelley Hershner, director of the Collegiate Sleep Disorder Center at the University of Michigan.

Tips…

Place your phone out of reach overnight so both you and it can recharge. Airplane mode muffles notifications but not your alarm.

No, I don't want to sabotage my energy for socializing tomorrow.

You’re social

You’re keeping it old school—in the best way.

Tips…

Place your phone out of reach overnight so both you and it can recharge. Airplane mode muffles notifications but not your alarm.

#5

When you’re talking to someone, are you more comfortable looking at your phone or looking into their eyes?

Phone

You’re nocial

One in three of our survey respondents chose this answer. Twenty-first century adults make eye contact 30–60 percent of the time during a conversation, according to data from Quantified Communications. To make an emotional connection, we need 60–70 percent eye contact.

Tips…

  • Become a phone-free role model. “I have implemented a rule: no gadgets of any kind [in social situations]. I set the example and people are catching on. I’m using this to get over being uncomfortable looking people in the eye and in face-to-face conversation,” says Anna E., a recent graduate of West Liberty University School of Professional Studies, West Virginia.
  • “Focus on your eyes in a mirror to practice eye contact. And if you randomly catch your reflection, rather than looking away, look at your eyes for five-plus seconds,” says Amy Nielson, a fourth-year undergraduate at Western Washington University.

Eyes

You’re social

Keep your eyes on the prize. You’re being social.

Note: If holding eye contact is very distracting or uncomfortable for you, a momentary eye-connection every couple of minutes helps the other person know that you’re still part of the conversation.

Tips…

  • Become a phone-free role model. “I have implemented a rule: no gadgets of any kind [in social situations]. I set the example and people are catching on. I’m using this to get over being uncomfortable looking people in the eye and in face-to-face conversation,” says Anna E., a recent graduate of West Liberty University School of Professional Studies, West Virginia.
  • “Focus on your eyes in a mirror to practice eye contact. And if you randomly catch your reflection, rather than looking away, look at your eyes for five-plus seconds,” says Amy Nielson, a fourth-year undergraduate at Western Washington University.
#6

You’re in class. Do you check your phone for notifications?

Often enough that I fall behind in my note taking and don't know the names of my classmates.

You’re nocial

Definitely nocial, like two in five students who took our survey. In a 2013 study, more than 80 percent of students acknowledged that their gadgets interfere with their learning, and one in four said this hurts their grades, according to the Journal of Media Education.

Tips…

  • Start simple. “Always say one word, even if it’s hello. It breaks the ice. Just ask how their day is going,” says Melissa W., a third-year undergraduate at the University of Saskatchewan. Before-class mingling can help you make friends in class.
  • Remove the temptation: “Leave your phone in the car charging, or put it in a pocket you don’t normally carry it in, and resist the urge to pull it out. After a while, your phone separation anxiety will go away,” says Tate F., a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of North Dakota.

No, or rarely.

You’re social

You’re a double winner, socially and academically.

Tips…

  • Start simple. “Always say one word, even if it’s hello. It breaks the ice. Just ask how their day is going,” says Melissa W., a third-year undergraduate at the University of Saskatchewan. Before-class mingling can help you make friends in class.
  • Remove the temptation: “Leave your phone in the car charging, or put it in a pocket you don’t normally carry it in, and resist the urge to pull it out. After a while, your phone separation anxiety will go away,” says Tate F., a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of North Dakota.

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Joanna Carmona is communications coordinator at the National Patient Safety Foundation. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Student Health 101. She has also edited collegiate textbooks for Cengage Learning and creating language learning materials for the US Department of Defense, libraries, and other educational institutions. Her BA in Spanish is from the University of New Hampshire.