The word ‘nomophobia’ is an abbreviation of the longer no-mobile-phone-phobia. It has been proposed as a condition for inclusion in future editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the psychiatry bible.

It was first proposed in 2014, based on extensive research, with the proponents citing symptoms such as

  • regularly using one’s phone
  • comfort-holding your phone even when not using it
  • carrying a charger with you
  • experiencing anxiety when your phone is out of reach, out of network coverage, credit or out of battery
  • avoiding places where you are not permitted to use a phone, or disregarding the rules and leaving your phone on
  • frequently checking your home-screen for missed calls, messages and updates
  • sleeping with your phone on and often bringing it into your bed
  • preferring communication via tech to in-person
  • having multiple devices
  • incurring vast expenses on your devices

So, any of these sound familiar? I know they do for me. And I also know that I have found excuses for pretty much every single one of them – yes I check my phone a lot but I’m worried I’ll miss an important message from my mum; if I don’t hold my phone when it’s in my pocket it might fall out or get stolen; my phone isn’t just my phone, it’s also my alarm/calendar/map/notebook/address book so of course I use it a lot and of course I need to keep my charger on me – I never know when the battery might die and leave me stranded in the middle of nowhere. However, I plead not guilty to preferring tech interactions to ones in-person. Tech merely enables me to arrange when I get to see people in person and keep in touch with those who are sadly too far afield to see in person regularly.

Mobile phones are simultaneously our heaven and hell, or to quote Taylor Swift and a song that is definitely on my phone, ‘a nightmare dressed as a daydream’. They store all the information we could possibly want them to in tiny personal portable devices and accessorise these multi-dimensional Filofaxes with our favourite music, photos and videos. Handy, no? But their utility makes us dependable on them, their convenience makes us lazy, and yet they are unreliable and leave us in a constant state of anxiety. They are fragile and fickle and hold all the power in the relationship, hanging us out to dry when we run out of battery, credit or coverage. That full-mobile-phone-battery flavour fro-yo in Netflix’s The Good Place? Apparently, that really is what heaven tastes like.

Wouldn’t you like to address this power balance just a little? Aren’t you tired of being a slave to your phone, constantly checking it, finding yourself engrossed in it, more than in the person who is sitting right next to you? Wouldn’t you like to be able to put your phone down sometimes and just focus on you, ignoring the possible work-emails arriving in after 6pm?

Our phones don’t let us switch off from work, they get in the way of our social lives, and we spend so much time looking at our screens as we walk to work or sit on buses that we fail to notice the people, places and amazing things all around us. Only this week I discovered the exact shade of yellow paint that I had been looking for for my front door, on the front of a building that I walk past every day. How many weeks or months had I walked past that building and not noticed it because I was so engrossed in checking my emails and updates?

With friends I am happy leaving my phone in my handbag or back pocket, I don’t want the intrusion of it. I don’t need it. But I am aware that with family I am not so conscientious. With friends, everyone makes the effort to put down their tech and engage, but at home, the TV is always on in the background, people are coming and going, everyone has a phone or tablet out and there isn’t the same sense of time set aside to enjoy and value one another’s company, except perhaps at mealtimes.

Getting over nomophobia, moving past dependence on phones, or even simply into a space where you can envisage yourself ignoring your phone for an hour or two without feeling anxious or bored, is a collective effort. If you make the effort and no one around you does then it’s not easy, and unless you have exemplary self-control just putting it down in your handbag or on the table is unlikely to be enough of a barrier to temptation.

Enter the Pearl Dish.

When friends and family visit, there’s a non-negotiable offering of phones to the Pearl Dish gods. Obviously, if someone is staying for several days then mealtimes become obligatory Pearl Dish occasions but we can be more lenient the rest of the time. It’s lovely watching the conversation grow, the warmth of people who are actually investing in being present and engaging fully, often sparked initially by the seeming eccentricity of the Pearl Dish, with its striking style and unique purpose. Once the phones are in the Pearl Dish though, people rarely want to take them back. No one is snapchatting in the corner or watching the football on their phone under the table or regaling us verbatim with political tracts they are reading online (not that there’s anything wrong with these activities, but there is a time and a place and to my mind it is not the dining table…)

Even away from group contexts, the Pearl Dish has made a difference. I know that exposure at night to the blue light emitted by phones makes it harder to sleep, but on those nights when I can’t sleep, I often find myself reaching for my phone, exacerbating the problem. I keep it by my bed, justifying its presence because it is my alarm clock. But recently I have changed up my habit. My phone serves just as well as an alarm from inside the Pearl Dish, better in fact. The effort to lift the lid and extract my phone when it rings, especially when I leave it further away from my bed, means that I am less likely to just press snooze or laze around in bed checking all my social media feeds. In the evenings, with my phone snuggly tucked away in its Pearl Dish, I reach for a book instead.

The Pearl Dish not only brings a definite boundary into our relationship with tech but it is a boundary on our terms and very much a piece that belongs at the heart of the community, whether that community is a company at a meeting, a family spending time together, a group of friends, a couple, or even just us on our own. The Pearl Dish gives us an empowering way to redefine our digital relationships. Available in a variety of materials and styles to suit its intended space, each piece handcrafted and multifunctional.

Whether you want to get home on a Friday and switch off from work so you pop your phone in the Pearl Dish until Monday morning, or set an hour or two per day that is tech-free to spend with your loved ones (one rule for adults and another for kids really doesn’t work here), or just because you want to take some ‘you’ time and have the space to do that without distraction, the Pearl Dish makes this possible. The Pearl Dish is the simple, unique and beautifully handcrafted solution to our constant struggle to understand where we end and our digital presence begins.

So put a lid on your tech and find yourself, reconnect with those who are actually around you, and rediscover the delights of doing things away from a glaring white screen.

Explore the Pearl Collective.


Discover the Origins of the Pearl Dish