It happens hundreds of time each day, your phone buzzes, alerting you to “news” about your co-workers, relatives, and friends. According to Facebook, they’re getting fancy Silicon Valley job promotions, joining SoulCycle fitness challenges, and planning month-long vacations to Costa Rica.
As you scroll through these social announcements, you begin to wonder if you’re missing out? Staring at the pictorial evidence of everyone else’s “fabulous life,” you start to feel badly about your own.
Public Service Announcement: If this sounds familiar, you may be suffering from “FOMO,” The fear of missing out. FOMO is the pervasive fear that you’re missing out on the fun while everyone else has a good time. Like most fears, FOMO affects our behavior by making it nearly impossible for us to “disconnect” from our digital devices.
Want to know if you’re suffering from FOMO?
Here are 6 warning signs that you may be suffering from a Fear of Missing Out
- Do you say “yes” to social engagements, like parties because you’re afraid of being left behind?
- Do you feel badly about yourself if you don’t have weekend plans?
- Do you have a hard time stepping away from your phone (i.e. you’re on the phone looking at Facebook or Instagram even when you’re out with friends?)
- Do you sleep with your phone beside you and check social media apps as soon as you wake up in the morning? (or even when you wake up in the middle of the night?)
- Are you often distracted when talking to others, because you’re thinking about what ‘selfie’ will get the most ‘likes’ on social media?
- After scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, do you often feel worse about yourself?
While we’ve all felt this way from time to time, if you answered, “yes” to several of these questions, you might be afflicted with FOMO.
And as hard as it is to hear, a ‘digital detox’ is one of the best remedies for this “social” anxiety … because technology is an addiction, just like anything else.
A ‘digital detox’ limits your social media and technology use, resetting your psychological system, including your mind and body. It’s not uncommon for people to sleep better and feel less stressed during this technology cleanse.
How to Begin Your Digital Detox
There are many ways to begin your detox. If you need your phone during the day, you might curtail your digital use by putting your phone away after work. You could also take Instagram and Facebook off of your device for a couple of weeks. Other people plan a weekend away in a remote area where there’s no cell or internet service.
While you detox, pay attention to how you feel. What’s it like to put away your technology crutch? Do you feel free? Do you feel worried? What’s hard? What’s surprising?
During this time, go retro. Step back to the 1980’s by recording your reflections in a notebook; yes an old school notebook. Write your answers with a pen or a pencil instead of using a keyboard.
Social Media Isn’t the Only Way to Connect
It might feel like ages ago, but before these social firecrackers, information was shared verbally, making space for real conversation and connection. Now fragments of people’s social diaries are shared in less than 100 words, and we’re left to interpret the information on our own. A detox helps us take a step back and find other ways to connect with those around us.
The Downside of Technology
While technology can bring humans together, it can also make us feel lonely and unworthy. As a psychologist, I wonder if the vast and fast world of social media diminishes the importance of intimate human relationships, because, while these apps have expanded our social space, they’ve also collapsed it.
Perhaps we fear if we step away from the Twitter, Facebook or Instagram runway, we’ll be left behind as other people continue to soar?
There’s only one way to remedy FOMO, which is to face our fears.
Most likely when we turn off Facebook notifications or resist the urge to open Instagram, we’ll realize that we didn’t miss out on anything at all.
But if we don’t step away from our screens, we might miss out on everything that’s truly important to us. By taking a break, we can reconnect with ourselves, turning our attention inwards, creating space to nurture the most important relationship of all.