It's Official: Our Purses Have Become Totally Useless

Four stylish celebrities with lovely bags slung over their shoulders and their phones in their hands

Does this look familiar?

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We've all been there. You're juggling an armful of packages, yet still gripping your phone in your not-at-all-available hands. Or you just bought a great purse and have fil­­­led it with your wallet, keys and other necessities, yet your phone never manages to make it in. Why bother putting it away when you're just going to look at it again in a few minutes anyway?

It's as laughable as it is common, this image of stylish women with lovely bags slung over their shoulders — and their phones contained in a death grip, never to see the inside of the purse.

We spend $280 billion yearly on personal luxury products including pricey bags, and yet our phones are the accessory that's really on display the most. Why can't we just relinquish them from our hands and into our bags for a second?

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Think addiction might be too strong a word? Maybe not. Women's tendency to clutch their phones could be chalked up to a lack of phone-friendly pockets, an egregious oversight in most women's clothing. But there's likely something more serious at play. 

study by researchers at Iowa State University focuses on so-called nomophobia — "no-mobile-phone-phobia" — as a psychological phenomenon that can manifest as actual anxiety. While we might not all be nomophobes, who are unable to function without their phones, most of us know a thing or two about cell phones interfering with our daily lives.

"Young adults are on their smartphones most of the time. They may not be interacting with it, but they make sure the phone is very close to them," Ana-Paula Correia, an associate professor at Iowa State and co-author of the nomophobia study, wrote to Mic in an email.

This extends to our death-grip tendencies. 

"If I am allowed to speculate, I would say it corroborates nomophobia as a phenomenon," Correia said. "Smartphone users need that physical connection with their device, like holding or keeping smartphones closer to their bodies. "n my opinion, smartphones are an extension of themselves."

"Smartphone users need that physical connection with their device, like holding or keeping smartphones closer to their bodies."

That desire to be physically close is blatantly obvious at night, when 44% of us sleep with our phones an arm's reach from bed. Or when we clutch them at social events, for fear of having to actually socialize (or appear as if you have no friends). 

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But always having our phones out invites certain risks. How many of us have walked into something while looking down? In psychology, this is known as inattentional blindness, a phenomenon in which you don't notice one thing (e.g., the telephone pole in front of you) because you are focusing on something else (your iPhone).  

"People fail to become aware of things around them that they would otherwise notice," Ira Hyman told Mic. Hyman, a professor of psychology at Western Washington University, researches our relationships with technology, including inattentional blindness in college students who use their phones while walking. In his study, the phone-using subjects didn't even notice a unicycling clown.

As we fall off curbs and walk into poles, our refusal to put our phones away in our bags has another consequence: According to a 2013 survey of over 2,000 iPhone users, 23% of people possess "broken, smashed or cracked" devices.

Alas, instead of just putting them in our bags, we've created another accessory to buy: an iPhone case with a special rubber loop so that we can hook our phones to our fingers without risking a fatal fall. 

At this point, our purses don't have a fighting chance.