May 14, 2019

Do you suffer from FOMO ?


FOMO is shorthand for Fear Of Missing Out. This is the one of the prime motivators of social media and our hyper-connected lifestyle. We spend, on average, 24 hours a week connected online in some form or another: Internet, smartphone, tablet, TV. We live in fear of missing something that others may know about. We are terrified of what passes for news slipping beneath our radar.

FOMO leads to an estimated 5 years of our adult lives spent staring at a screen. All that time spent this way leads to a few rather important questions:

1. Are we connected but not connecting?

2. Are too many relationships wide but remarkably shallow?

3. Are we spending too much of our lives on minutia, superficiality, and rumors? 

4. Are we addicted?  A study from last year says the average American checks his or her phone 80 times a day. 


From my point of view, those questions are rhetorical. I would answer, Yes, to each one. If you agree, then the key question is, "what can we do about it without cutting ourselves off from the world?"

Let's consider a few options:

1) Apps that help you limit your use of apps. Sounds rather counter-intuitive, doesn't it. Like fighting a fire with gasoline. Both Apple and Android phones can use parental control software to limit scree time, and you don't have to be a parent (or a kid!) to use it. Use this link for an article on some of the best programs to help you manage your screen time.

2) Turn off social media notifications. The constant pinging of new information is hard to ignore. By reducing the number of times an hour your device alerts you to something, yo are less likely to stop what you are doing, or divide your attention between the task at hand and something that triggers your FOMO response.

3) Build media and Internet time into your daily schedule. Do you use a scheduling app or something like Google calendar to help you remember to go to the gym, pick up prescriptions, pay the phone bill, or other daily and weekly tasks? Then, schedule your Internet or social media time for a set time, like 30 minutes at 9:00AM and 30 minutes just after dinner. That equals 14 hours which sounds like a lot, but is a full 10 hours less than the average. 

4) Force yourself to meet real people in real time. Have you ever been in a coffee shop where every single person is staring at a screen or laptop? What's the point of leaving home - you can stare at an electronic device at home. 

Instead, find places where people can interact with each other. Bookstores, libraries, grocery stores, outdoor restaurants, happy hour on a bar stool, clubs where people share your interests, volunteer organizations...any place where the default position isn't hunched over a smartphone or tablet! 

5) Pick your poison. OK, that is a little dramatic, but, if left unchecked,  social media can overwhelm us. Out of all the choices on your phone, laptop, or tablet, like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Tumblr, or whatever, pick two that are your favorites. Then, delete the rest. Believe me, you will live...actually a little bit more than before.

Finally, here is a sobering thought: there are now more cell phones in the world than people. Ponder that for a moment.


22 comments:

  1. You can't go anywhere now where people don't have their noses in their phones...places where people used to chit-chat with strangers while waiting in lines, etc. It's really kind of sad that so many kids are growing up this way and sad for seniors like me who could use the social interaction.

    That being said, I value my time spent on the computer---morning when I first get up, then again at before bedtime. But I've learned to stay off social media on and around holidays because like you said in bullet point #1, it just makes me feel connected without connecting and that can be an empty feeling.

    Great topic, Bob.

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    1. While I am certainly a heavy user of electronic devices, I find it sad to see a dad and his daughter, or mom and her son, sitting in a park or on a bench at a bus stop, facing away from each other while they study the miniature screen grasped in their hands.

      Betty and I were in a restaurant recently and noted a family of four, all with smartphones, all typing away. At the same time, at another table, a birthday party for a grandmother had eight people, all interacting with each other, sharing laughs, and the experience. Guess which one pleased us more.

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  2. Like others, I'm lost without that smart phone in my purse or on my person. But I did remove all notifications and it changed my life. No longer a slave to the pinging! The only notifications I get are if I receive a text, which is normally someone important to me. And I silence that on a regular basis if I'm involved in some activity that makes it intrusive. I get notifications every week of whether my phone time is up or down, and if it's up considerably, I know I've either been trapped in a car for hours (ha!) or need to dial it back and get moving.

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    1. That lost feeling is powerful. I had the battery replaced in my phone; the store told me to come back in an hour. Frankly, I felt naked driving to various errands without it for that 60 minutes.

      Like you, I turned off all notifications except texts. It does make a big difference.

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  3. I don't use social media at all, save to check out the sites of businesses I am thinking of using. I do not have a smart phone, and I don't want one. DH and I share a dumb phone, and I don't even always bother to take it with me when I am out and about. I figure if I am not at home, I am not available, just like it was when we were younger. If it's important, they'll leave a message, or call back.

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    1. So few people actually make phone calls anymore; texts or photos are the normal way to communicate. But, I try to always have my phone with me when I leave home, for safety reasons. Especially now that we are entering the hot time of year, having a car breakdown could be quite serious without the ability to notify someone.

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  4. Like many, I have mixed feelings on the phones. We have also been dismayed to see couples or families at restaurants immersed in their phones. And I too, have sometimes been guilty of interacting more with my electronics than with those in my presence.

    But as someone who is more on the introverted side of the social scale, I have found them a blessing in terms of an actual communication device. I have never been good at small talk, and really don't like talking on the phone, as those two or three second pauses when you can't think of anything to say have always been very awkward to me.

    One of my retirement fears was losing touch with my good friends from work, but I find that having a couple of minute text exchange once in a while is just enough to keep that connection intact until we can get together in person for a more meaningful exchange. I may not have called them to chat, so I can say that texting has quite possibly saved several valuable friendships. Some might say that if the friendship was that valuable I would suck it up and make those calls, and I may well have done that if it was the only way, but this has been much easier for me. I'll be hanging onto my cell phone.

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    1. Thanks for your perspective on this issue. I wouldn't have thought of texting in that way, but your situation is one that is shared by many I am sure. Just like retirement isn't a one-size-fits-all experience, so with how we use our electronics.

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  5. Your observation about families typing away in restaurants is one we can all relate to. It was true when I was working as smartphones took over our business lives, and it is true in many peoples personal lives as well.

    Much of my time on the internet is taken up with educating myself on the stock market machinations, since I do all the investing for Deb and myself, and find myself much more active than the average person. I am not sure that is more constructive than the time most people spend, but it is something I enjoy, especially when we do well in that area.

    This past Sunday Deb and I returned from a week long cruise that we did not purchase the wireless package for. No checking the phones for anything but the schedule of events on the ship for a week. To be honest we did not miss such things as Facebook; in fact, here it is Tuesday and I still haven't checked my FB account since our return. Maybe that is telling me how much or rather how little I need FB in my life.

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    1. I rejoined FB a few month ago but under a different approach: only "friending" people or sites that were positive, optimistic, or humorous. What a difference.

      I place Internet availability on a different scale than social media. It can be such a boon to knowledge. I would have a problem with the completeness of many of these posts without the ease of research on the web.

      When we took the 12 day River Cruise in Europe last year we didn't buy the Internet package either. The free Internet in the business center on the ship was so slow or sporadic that we were very much unconnected most of the time...it was heaven.

      I will admit we found free wireless at some stops along the river, but not very often.

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  6. Bob, Thanks for the article.

    My wife and I were just having a very similar conversation a few days ago. We both admitted that we were somewhat "addicted" to our smart phones and tablets especially with social media apps. I found that we also used excuses like "I need my phone with me at all times in case someone needs me", "What if I have an emergency and I do not have my phone with me", and "What is the weather going to do in a few hours - we live in Tornado Alley". I use the word excuses to describe our "need" for always being connected, as many of us know that long before cell phones and tablets and even the internet, we all survived not having total, immediate access to people and information. I feel we leverage all these electronic devices as a crutch for FOMO. I am as guilty as anyone else in today's FOMO world. So, the million dollar question that you posed is what do we do about it? My wife and I are going on a 7 night Caribbean cruise on Sunday. We will leave the ship contact info for our adult children in case of an emergency and will turn off our electronic devices and store them in the cabin safe. A big motivator for unplugging is the cost of being online on a cruise ship. We have been on numerous cruises and have practiced the unplugging strategy each time. I find it very hard the first few days and constantly am reaching for my phone which is no longer in my pocket. I feel lost. I feel disconnected. And then by about day 3, I feel liberated, free, relaxed. It's amazing how much of a slave I am to electronics and being online. I thought that once I retired out of my IT career, that I would cut down on my online time. I may have cut down a little on it, but not to the degree I thought I would or I should. I plan to use this "disconnected" time to try to wean myself off this addiction and make it more manageable. Time will tell if I am successful.

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    1. I am guilty of carrying my phone and compulsively checking it just because it is there. I am trying a new tactic: putting it in a room I am not. We will see if that helps.

      A cruise without a phone is a smart move, but a rather expensive way to break an addiction! Chuck wrote about it above and I noted we went on an European cruise Internet-free.

      I am in your camp, Dan. I spend much more connected time than I realize, or is good for me. Maybe this post will allow me to refocus on better self-control.

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  7. Just today, I was reading about JOMO. The opposite of FOMO, JOMO is the "joy of missing out" -- really, the joy of being electronically unplugged and therefore available to connect with real people and with the natural world. I have thus far managed to resist having a smart phone -- in part because I don't want to be on call 24/7 and in part because I have some OCD tendencies and I know how easy it would be for me to become one of those people who compulsively checks their phone every 10 seconds. I got a dumb cell phone last year, but I only take it in the car in case of a breakdown. Like Meg, I think it's fine if I'm not available when I'm not at home. A couple of years ago, I noticed how much time I was frittering away before I even got dressed in the morning looking at emails and checking blog stats; I changed up my schedule so that I now don't even boot up my computer until late morning. JOMO.

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    1. JOMO...that is great! What a perfect counterpoint to FOMO. Thanks, Jean.

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  8. I am in the JOMO camp. Life is full without being privy to everyone else's minutiae. I'm always amazed at what I don't need to know. And that's what the "urgent" message alerts are usually about - minutiae. When that cell phone goes off in the middle of a marriage or funeral service, or at the theater or concert, I don't see the recipient get up and rush out because they've just received the call that the "donor organ is ready" (insert facetious tone here). Apparently, when phones were first invented, the pitch of the ring was the same as infants' crying so people would feel compelled to respond. I choose real life over tv programs and social media. In spite of the many ways of communicating now, it never ceases to amaze me how information doesn't get communicated in a family or an organization. I think there are more mediums to ignore! I use a dumb phone and it serves my purpose. I don't even have call display on my land line. Someone asked - how do you know who's calling? to which I replied - I pick up the receiver and say hello.

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    1. I may be nudged more into the JOMO camp if someone doesn't come up with a workable answer to end the 10-15 spam phone calls I get a day. Blocking them just shifts the calls to other numbers.

      Or, the absolute most infuriating, the call that goes directly to voicemail without allowing itself to be blocked. Even though I know the message is crap, I still have to go through the process to delete it.

      JOMO is sounding better!

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  9. My primary electronic world is FB and a little bit of Instagram. I do have a Twitter acct. but, rarely even look at it. Now that I'm promoting the book I use some of the other accounts but, only for promo. I've found, lately, I really need to stay away from the insanity of our government because, it makes me crazy. But, I believe it's important to know what's going on in the world. It's not easy!
    b

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    1. Wanting to ignore all the insanity in the political world, while still being aware enough to not wake up one day in the real life version of The Handmaid's Tale, is tough. I haven't figured out how to turn my anger into something productive. In the meantime, I severely limit how much I allow these people to get into my head.

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  10. I have had a prepaid phone since 2004 when Hurricane Charlie knocked out my landline for 3 months. I currently have 6,350 minutes. It doesn't work inside my house and I have to walk around outside trying to find a signal. I only use it when the landline goes down (frequently) or when I am grocery shopping for my parents. Same with my internet, I am limited to 10 gigs per month and can only get 2 bars out of 5. If I had a better connection, I might have a problem but as it is now I can honestly say "I am barely connected, so not an issue."

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    1. You brought up a good alternative for those who want to cut back..prepaid phones. They cost less than a typical phone & service from a major carrier but give you a safety source. With limited text or data, a prepaid phone helps someone self-limit their usage.

      Thanks for idea.

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  11. Like Jean and Mona, I think I lean more towards JOMO than FOMO. I don’t watch TV. I only look at FB about once a week, mainly because I have some friends and family who use it as their main way of communicating long distance. I’ve limited my news consumption as follows: I listen to the news on the CBC radio if it comes on when I am driving. I subscribe to a free news feed that allows me one in-depth article a day in specific topic areas I‘ve chosen. And if there is a particular issue that I want to know about, I’ll read about it online via CBC’s coverage (est. 1-2 hours a week). I NEVER read anything about the orange haired buffoon (why give him the attention he craves?). I figure that if something that’s important happens, I’ll hear about from Rob or friends. Once in while, I’ll read an in-depth article in other media or newspapers that a friend has forwarded or tagged on FB. And, like others, I’ve turned off all auditory notifications except text messages. I love text messages for keeping in close touch with my kids/stepkids and friends, although I also talk to them all on the phone on a regular basis.

    Jude

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    1. Turning off so-called "push notifications" is one of the easiest ways of cutting back in the interruptive nature of modern media. Like you, I keep texts on for kids, wife, or grandkid messages.

      After 2 1/2 years I am surprised that folks don't understand that if every breath, every tweet, every utterance or backtrack was simply not reported, the beast would seemingly evaporate from public view due to the lack of media oxygen. We are feeding the fire every time we read and react to the latest absurdity.

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