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Fone Free Feb suggests smartphone users power off

The Australian nonprofit organization Fone Free Feb is aiming to untether people from their smartphones for at least a short time.

The charity is encouraging people to sign a pledge to put down their phones for intermittent periods during the month of February.

Australia is one of the most connected countries on the planet when it comes to mobile devices, according to the 2013 Telstra smartphone index. The perpetual need to keep in touch can cause serious health and social issues, according to some global research statistics.

One of these issues is a new syndrome called "phantom vibration anxiety" where users answer their phones they thought were ringing when in fact they were not.

In 2012 Telecommunications company Cisco released a connected world technology report that surveyed 1800 workers and university students in 18 countries. The survey found that 60 per cent of Gen-Y respondents compulsively check their smartphones.

More than two out of five respondents reported feeling anxious and incomplete if they were not able to check their phones regularly. Two of three said that they spent an equal or greater amount of time interacting with friends online rather than in person.

It's a start

The charity’s website is philosophical regarding the issue and states: “In the age of mass stimulation, we must fight the urge to give in to the quick x, and push our minds to maintain the ability to continue to think deeply, wonder widely, and imagine what’s possible.”

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Fone Free Feb chief executive Jack Manning Bancroft insisted “it isn’t about getting rid of technology, but making sure that we control technology, not the other way around.”

“Often we are so constantly connected to our phones that we’re not present in the moment," Bancroft said. "We fail to truly connect with the people and environment around us. We miss that magic one liner at the dinner table, that subtle smile mid conversion, or that amazing one-on-one connection with the live musician.”

Similar efforts have met with mixed success, such as the U.S.-oriented National Day of Unplugging. The medical community has identified new psychological conditions related to technology and addiction treatment is available.

The organization says individuals can sign themselves up or opt to sponsor friends and family through a variety of commitment packages. Each package contains different periods of phone-free time and sign-up fees are based on individual usage. That money is said to go to international charities that promote good health and well being such as the YMCA, CanTeen, and Royal Fair West.

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