Social Media, FOMO and You: Begin Your Digital Detox Today!

An unfortunate paradox regarding FOMO is that while you’re engaging in one thing, and fearing what you’re missing out on elsewhere, you’re actually missing out on the thing you’re doing. In my recent article It’s All About Perspective: Making The Jump From FOMO to JOMO, I explored how taking a pause, scanning through your values, and gaining perspective before making a decision or committing to an engagement can assure that your priorities are met. Only then can you be fully present in what and who you’re engaging with, which is the best technique for trading FOMO for JOMO— the Joy Of Missing Out. I hope you’ve considered this and have started experimenting with the possibilities.

Today, let’s switch gears and explore another roadblock to achieving JOMO. Luring you away from your place of joy and back into the FOMO abyss is a phenomenon that didn’t have a hold on you a mere ten years ago. This threat lives plainly in sight, and is truly dangerous, despite the common consensus that it’s a useful and necessary part of living. It’s called compulsive digital connectivity, particularly in the realm of social media, and it’s a public health crisis. Perhaps Yale professor Edward Tufte put this into more poignant perspective when he pointed out that, “There are only two industries that call their customers “users”: illegal drugs and software.”

You may have heard the saying, “It didn’t happen unless it was posted on Facebook”. But let’s take a more intimate look at the instincts behind the social media draw, and then perhaps devise a personal formula for digital detox as an effective technique for managing FOMO.

The Whole Picture Isn’t The Whole Picture.

FOMO comes from a prehistoric need to feel connected, and the reality is that we are more socially connected thanks to social media. But the truth is that more and more “connected” people are feeling alone. Whereas in 1986, a person had on average three confidants, it’s now down to two. How can that be? Well, true social connection requires people to be face-to-face or at least voice-to-voice. Social media is actually distorting our perception of missing out!

Take, for example, the Impostor Syndrome. In DRIVEN’s recent exploration of this phenomenon, social media was exposed as a contributor, since everyone else looks so accomplished and successful in these two-dimensional feeds. All those vacation photos, children’s events, kind acts and family togetherness pop out as whole-picture living. Through our negativity biases, our own lives look bland and trivial by contrast, prompting the illusion that we’re missing out, and thereby stifling our gratitude.

When you occupy your mind with what isn’t yours, you have no space to appreciate what is yours, and you forget to focus on all the ways that you are wealthy (this is where a gratitude journal enters the equation….so rich with opportunity!) It also helps to remember that each of us is fighting a great personal battle. Life is effort! It just looks effortless on social media.

Detox Is On Your Horizon

People are spending an average of 16 hours per week engaged with social media, which is considered an addiction, not to mention an unprecedented threat to children. So, let’s just come clean and admit it: The best way to manage FOMO is to learn how to unplug from social media. It’s called digital detox, and is far more necessary than it sounds. To get some poignant perspective on the crisis, check out this moving TEDx talk by Collin Kartchner, wherein he shared the devastating facts and stories of how teenagers are being bullied and threatened on social media, leading them to anxiety, depression, and sometimes suicide. Then consider this profound article by NYT reporter Kevin Roose, who divulges how he successfully ditched his phone and got his life back.

Here are some additional reasons to tempt yourself into a digital detox:

  • Social media is addictive by design, and because of the resulting FOMO, you become numb to finding reward or pleasure from other activities.
  • Social media also results in being less comfortable with solitude and less tolerant of boredom, which is detrimental to your career since boredom yields creativity.
  • The more plugged-in you are, the less reflection and introspection you’ll engage in, and the less connected you’ll become to your values.
  • Like some of my clients, you’ll make huge improvements to you attitude, your energy level and your feelings of satisfaction and peace when you address your social media habits.
  • You’ll become a model for your children:
  • You’ll regain a sense of spaciousness, of presence, of time passing.
  • You can create rules and practices to live by in order to leverage your online presence to benefit you, instead of letting it rule your life.

My next article will focus on resources to further your exploration of FOMO, gratitude, values and digital detox. Keep an eye out for it, and then get ready to release Resistance— our exploration throughout the month of May!