We all need down time. This has been proved essential for good health and mental well being. But a recent article in The New York Times points out that social media and its new catch term called “FOMO” may be interfering with our ability to take a much-needed break.
FOMO, which stands for Fear of Missing Out, applies to the experience many of us have when we make plans to spend a quiet night chillin’ with a movie or a book, only to be suddenly interrupted by some form of social media that puts you on edge because your low-key plans aren’t as exciting or interesting as what the rest of the world may be doing.
Feeling left out is not a brand new emotion, of course. People have likely felt this way every now and then since the first caveman worried about staying home to put a bone through his nose while the rest of his clan partied over dino burgers in the next cave over.
But what’s different now is that it’s become so much easier to find out exactly what your friends, friends-of-friends, frenemies, co-workers, family, neighbors and random social butterflies you’ve befriended along the way are doing. Every. Single. Second.
How can you sit home happily in peace and quiet when your phone is bleeting about a show you’re missing, or a friend makes a mobile photo upload to Facebook depicting the scene at a party you weren’t invited to?
There’s an upside to living in the digital era, of course. Social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foresquare and Instagram keep us connected to each other and on top of the news, and can even change our lives by putting us in touch with long lost friends or family members.
But in addition to all the benefits, there is a dark side to social media when it has such power to influence your moods and emotions. And just like so many of the darker sides to life, it is here where you simply need to take some responsibility for yourself and abide by our Karmic Law No. 8, “Give It a Rest.”
That means simply unplugging, logging off or putting the phone away. The New York Times article on Fear of Missing Out includes this same great advice from Sherry Turkle, author and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who says she tells herself to “get a grip and separate myself from my iPhone.”
Turkle told the Times that while we still have an immature relationship with technology as it is evolving, we need to figure out how to limit its influence on our lives.
We asked our own readers via Facebook recently if they also suffer from this social media driven fear of missing out, and we had a lot of responses. Many said yes, it makes them feel bad to see mutual friends hanging out together without being invited to join, or seeing a recent ex in photos with a new girlfriend or boyfriend. Others said they are just annoyed when people use Facebook to post personal agendas or show off their apparently superawesome lives.
But one reader made another very good point, saying “I don’t let what other people say or do bring me down! I’m not insecure and have a good mindset and have positive attitude! I feel bad for some who are having hard times in their lives!”
We do all have ups and downs, and no one's life is perfect all the time no matter how it appears on Facebook. It’s a good idea to remember that and follow this positive-attitude example as we learn to balance the time we spend preoccupied with social media and the time we spend quietly relaxing with ourselves.
What about you? Do you suffer from Fear of Missing Out?