FOMO – At least I’m not Todd Carney.

fomo images (4)

Something amazing happened to me recently week when I attended a beautiful concert by the talented Claire Bowditch.

As I sat mouth wide open and totally engaged in the performance. I realised that my son and I were totally engrossed in the moment and there was no sign of either of us reaching for our phones.

Apart for the woman in front of us who was recording Betsy the very funny interpretative dancer on the stage. Everyone else had their phones tucked away and to my amazement the whole audience were totally in the moment.

I can’t tell you how long it had been that I was totally engrossed in something for more than 10 minutes, all I knew was that it was far too long.

Oh f@#%&,what I’m realising of late is that I might have been under a serious cloud of FOMO. Now for those over 30 years of age FOMO means the fear of missing out. The Oxford English Dictionary definition is:

“Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”

The acronym itself apparently came from marketing gurus in the early 1990’s when used to explain how new media commerce was undermining traditional brand loyalties. Or it might have come from some young person’s Facebook page and went viral to the delight of the young person who invented it, who knows? What I do know is that FOMO is pushing its way into our distracted lives, like it or not, despite our generational difference.

So that might not be a bad thing says the young person on the smart phone next to me, after all, YOLO! Now for you old folk again YOLO means “you only live once”. So the theory is you only live once so you should grab all opportunities that come your way. Fortunately or unfortunately with social media and hand held devices there are now so many opportunities every second of the day, that I’m anxious just thinking about which option carpe diem em!

What could possibly be wrong with that you ask? Well from a long standing FOMO sufferer, let me answer that.

There are a couple of things that happen when FOMO rides in on a massive wave and swamps our little brains.

Firstly we can become anxious. Worried about missing out, anxious about not responding in time, seriously concerned that no one has responded to us and just plain anxious about being anxious. There have been numerous studies done over the last 5 years about what happens when we can’t have access to our phones (mainly with teenagers, because adults don’t suffer from phone addiction!). Sadly the withdrawal process is not unlike that of being addicted to drug and alcohol. This “on call” status means we are available anytime, anyplace anywhere, how stressful for us as human beings. Our obligation to respond is overwhelming and even addictive.

Secondly if we are obsessed with FOMO then we are clearly missing out on other stuff in our lives that might have more meaning or could be more important in the long term. Sleep for example is one area which is being sidelined because we want more time online; think of how many nights a week we go to bed with our phones in our hand and let’s be clear it’s not just teenagers, adults are doing this too, and myself included. Insomnia has become the new black and is on the rise and it’s not going away any time soon.

Are we simply in a habit of over connecting and FOMO has weaved its way into our lives as an incessant rash that just won’t go away? Others will say but isn’t happiness about connecting with people? Well yes it is, but are we over connecting to the point where meaningful connection is now about obligation? I feel obliged to attend that online Facebook event to save the ancient slug of Yemen, I’m obliged to say yes to event invitations, and if I can’t say yes there is a maybe button. I’m obliged to say the obligatory sorry to a friend who has lost their wallet and posted it on Facebook. Meaningful connection is about conversations not in 140 characters or less, it is about looking into someone’s eyes and them knowing you are really listening.

Ok rant almost over. I realise I risk sounding old here, but I’m not quite finished yet observing and questioning whether this on call FOMO status is good for us.

One of the things I talked to a friend about the other day was the worry about what the world holds for our 9 year olds. More than ever before because of technology we are part of a global culture.

Before you shoot me down yes I’m aware that there are many good things to come from this. There are also some things that worry me greatly. We have started to see the world as a smaller place and our global community news can sometimes be suffocating and claustrophobic don’t have to look any further then our news feed to see in graphic detail the brutal beheadings, the poverty stricken children and the unsolved murders that hit us right between the eyes in high resolution colour. One might argue that we need to be aware of these things as responsible global citizens, but should children be aware of them, should we be de-concertized to violence like never before. Should we be aware 24/7, especially when our power to change massive problems is far beyond our ability to make change? We can feel overwhelmed, depressed and helpless. I suppose it does have the effect of making some of us feel better about our own lives.

I remember when the ‘Todd Carney incident’ hit headlines around Australia (in case you erased it from your mind, the footballer who peed in his mouth and then someone uploaded a photo of it on social media). I even found myself reading article upon article about it until I realised that I didn’t need to too, it wasn’t that important, but all I could think was thank goodness I’m not Todd Carney. This had become my diet of reading every Monday morning how the f$%&* did I get here?

In the same week I read about the now infamous Facebook’s Emotional Manipulation Study, whereby a bunch of academics decided “ethically” it might be a good idea to manipulate the emotional content of our Facebook news feeds to see how that would affect us? Not sure how this one got through Ethics, but what it did for me was again remind me that I am being manipulated and I need to question my online use and behaviour.

The bad news just this week has been so overwhelming with children being abducted from front yards to the war (sorry “air combat”) in Syria and Iraq. But still there is a macabre side of me that feels I should click and find out the details despite how horrible they are. That fear that I might miss out on information is growing by the minute. The sad thing is there are no details kept from publication to protect the audience. When Robin Williams died of suicide recently we were not spared any details of his death, the how, the when, the where and people even tried the why. What kept me wanting to click on more and more information, was it FOMO?

The one thing that FOMO does interfere with is my ability to stick with a task and finish it. My concentration levels have deteriorated and the procrastination opportunities have exploded.

The choice of what to do, see, hear and find is now beyond comprehension sometimes. The Paradox of Choice written by Barry Schwartz tells us that more choice does not make life easier. In fact too many choices drain our mental energy and impede our decision making abilities. This is clearly why I have trouble in supermarket isles and online shopping.

So the costs of FOMO overtaking us mere humans are pretty huge. I can’t continue to ignore this in my life; I need to take some action against it, straight after I check out this link to 50 of the best Tacos that is.

After listening to Chris Sauve’s TedX talk on the habits of boring people I think I might have a starting point.

He talked about the three things boring people do that help them stay on task, stay focused and which eventually leads to more creatively simple lives. I clearly remember as a child being bored a lot. My parents would say go outside and play. Through our boredom we would find new adventures, creative outlets and discover new people and places.

So I will leave you with the three things I am going to try and do more of. The three habits that highly boring people do are:

  1. They write stuff down – Our memories are not good at handling more than 5 to 9 short term memory items.
  2. They reduce the essentials – put simply means don’t have more stuff and choices then we need.
  3. They stop and question – they do not jump in without looking at the facts and fine print, taking only calculated risks.

I will leave you to ponder this question. Will the next Click and Go generation be able to have a meaningful conversation with another human for more than 5 minutes or will they be checking their phones for a better offer?

All I can think of now is at least Todd Carney can concentrate on the skill of peeing in his mouth without checking his phone, effort Todd effort.

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4 comments

  1. Great write up. This ‘instant 24 hour news’ makes my head full of trivia, only today I found out that Jennifer Garner flashed her spanx at a red carpet event. It’s almost like we have to make a choice NOT to be informed rather than in the past we had to make a choice to keep up-to-date and informed. Makes me tired 🙂

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  2. Great post! I completely agree..I feel constant guilt over reading mindless articles or watching silly videos purely because i’m drawn in by the headings which want us to click through and look at advertising while we’re there, when I could be spending more quality time doing far more productive things. Sometimes it’s a great escape, but mostly it fills my brain with information I wasn’t actually looking for. I love the internet but social media has made me feel angry, envious, out of touch for awhile now. I miss phone calls and being with people who aren’t staring at their phones while you have a coffee date. WHAT is more important on there than what I have to contribute!? Recently I’ve been to two social functions where I felt so alone and out of touch…I don’t know if it’s because I feel like I already know all the news from Facebook…or that we’ve forgotten how to spend face to face time with people. I just wanted to be home with my family…and maybe an episode of trashy american tv 😉 But on the other hand, sometimes it’s easier to feel like we’ve connected because we’ve sent a message or liked a photo, and before we know it, months (or years) have passed between actual catch ups. I cleaned my phone of my social apps (although ended up adding one back on) and now at least I spend my late night baby feeds looking up interesting content that I hope is enriching my life for the better. Next, just to find the time again to journal and stitch together all my home movies of the baby 🙂

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    • Thank you for taking the time to connect with me. Your so right, i’m going to take a leaf out of your Iphone and take off a whole bunch of stupid apps from my phone tomorrow. Late night baby feeds are probably the only time we are able to trash our minds with mindless stuff. I remember feeding and watching the infomercials and buying a whole bunch of stuff i never used.
      Your not the only one feeling out of touch, most of us are, it helps to be a bit vulnerable and reach out to real people once in a while. I really want to host a end of year bbq with Facebook friends i have met online but not connected much in person, hopefully i can be brave enough to do it. Thanks again for responding i value your input.

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