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Is this making you cringe?

Is this making  you cringe?

The recent launch of Apple's new iPhone has put the spotlight on a new kind of phobia. that of holes. Is trypophobia yet another talking point for Apple or is its seriousness underplayed? We sieve truth from the hype


Anamika Chatterjee

Published: Fri 20 Sep 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 29 Sep 2019, 1:12 PM

There are phobias that impact daily life - the fear of flying (aerophobia) can limit one's travels while the fear of being alone (autophobia) can lead you to seek people all the time. And then there is trypophobia, a fear of small clusters of holes. In the longlist of all phobias, it might have been dismissed as the phobia of the privileged had Apple not facilitated its return to public consciousness. This week, as it unveiled the latest edition of the iPhone, the three oddly placed cameras at the back of its Pro and Pro Max models inspired a rather awkward reaction from a certain tribe on social media. That tribe has now come to be known as trypophobes.
Humans have a lot to thank evolution for. trypophobia, however, is not one of them. Earlier research conducted by scientists at University of Essex had indicated that trypophobia is rooted in basic human instinct for survival; the uneven patterns that evoke fear bear resemblance to poisonous animals, such as the king cobra and blue-ringed octopus. Earlier this year, the Nokia 9 PureView smartphones that come with an array of five lenses had evoked a similar response on the Internet, albeit at a smaller scale. Had it not been for its oddly placed cameras, there was no room for comparison between an iPhone and dangerous animals, but here we are.
So, what must you do if your love for the iPhone does not surpass your trypophobia? Moreover, how do you know you have the condition? We spoke to a cast of three different characters - a trypophobe, a psychologist and a tech influencer - to sieve the truth from the hype. Over to them.
The trypophobe
Kevin Facun admits that he is not exactly an Apple fan. But in a world that often stands divided between Apple and non-Apple users, the launch was pretty much an occasion to look forward to. At first glance, the phone seemed to live up to its aesthetic reputation - sleek and shiny. "But then I saw the cameras," says the 28-year-old UAE-based HR professional. "Initially, I hadn't noticed it very much, but the more I focused on them, it began to feel weird. The design really put me off."
While many are identifying their trypophobia, thanks to the conversation around the latest iPhone, Kevin is not one of them. He says he realised he had trypophobia after he read an online discussion on it. Since it didn't impact his routine as such, it wasn't a major hurdle. But once in a while, when Kevin does see these patterns, he admits to feeling uncomfortable. He has one word to describe the feeling - cringe. "It compels me to turn my gaze away."
Being a trypophobe has also meant that Kevin has had to stay away from a few things in life - pomegranates being one of them. "I stay away from them unless someone has pressed or squeezed them already," he says.

The psychologist
Tara Wyne has been working as a psychologist for over 20 years across the UK and UAE, but is yet to meet a patient who suffers from trypophobia. Does it mean that the condition does not exist? Far from it, says Wyne. "It's just that it is not common and not recognised by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 not the International Classification of Diseases." Wyne identifies trypophobia as an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of objects that pose little real danger but evoke deep anxiety and avoidance. She says any phobia is difficult to live with and can interfere with your quality of life, but since there hasn't been enough medical research on the subject, it remains a largely uncharted area. This, in turn, means there are a range of speculations on the genesis of trypophobia. While evolution is stated as one, she adds, "The mathematical principles hidden in the patterns of holes can cause distress because the brain requires more neural processing and oxygen to process these images. Some say that the discomfort comes from an innate drive to avoid infectious diseases and contaminated food. We may be programmed to have biological fears when we encounter high contrast colours and certain graphic arrangements."
While many iPhone lovers who happen to be trypophobes can simply turn their gazes away, others may have more extreme reactions - that could range from intense nausea leading to vomiting to itching, rashes and goosebumps. So, what must one do? Wyne says that if the sight of the patterns evoke such responses, then it's time to seek help. "Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Exposure therapy are evidence-based therapeutic interventions of choice when treating specific phobias."

The tech insider
Omair Ahmed, a tech influencer and a digital consultant at The Media Lab Middle East, initially dismissed the conversation around iPhone and trypophobia as part of a larger talking point that is typically built around an Apple launch. "The launch event is always widely anticipated. We always observe a pre- and post-event review with rounds of memes circulating around social media. Sometimes, it is about cutting the phone into two pieces, other times, it is about the water test and its cost. Last year's very famous iPhone is a big example of hype concerning to #Bendgate test."

Trypophobia, feels Omair, is this year's talking point around Apple. While he does add that Apple's strategy of marketing its phones as "best ever" does pique the curiosity, leading to the Internet buzz, he admits that it feels odd to have three lenses in one phone "as it is opposed to Apple's minimalist approach".

"The only thing that suddenly surprised me was why one phone has three camera lenses. But I realised that it's more of a symbolic identity and a new makeover for iPhone users, wrapped under the name of innovation," says Omair, adding that while his friend circle too had mixed responses to the new model, some of them still went ahead and ordered it to get a hands-on experience.

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