Technology


How to Disconnect: Coping with FOMO

September 12, 2014 at 4:15 PM

First off, do you know what FOMO is? If you are technologically connected and have a social media account (or three), you are probably experiencing it right now. FOMO is an acronym that stands for Fear of Missing Out. Urban Dictionary defines it as “the fear that if you miss a party or event you miss out on something great” (urbandictionary.com). Perhaps the more scholarly Wikipedia defines it as a “form of social anxiety whereby one is compulsively concerned that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, or other satisfying event” (Wikipedia.com). This phenomenon is why young people are constantly glued to their phones/tablets/computers. They feel pressure to check their social media regularly in case something (anything) more interesting might be happening. And they will check this repeatedly and even in cases where it may be dangerous (like while driving). It is a compulsion to know what else might be going on just in case that something could potentially be more interesting than whatever they are currently doing. It is so pervasive that people may even experience FOMO while doing something that is actually fun, like being at a party or a fun social event. This anxiety could cause people to become disconnected to actual real life people and events, and it could foster social skills deficits and even social isolation. It is a dangerous trend that doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon. In fact, as we become even more connected (now we have computers on our watches so succumbing to this anxiety is quite literally within arm’s reach!) we are falling into the FOMO trap at alarming rates.

 

So what can we do about it? Well, first and foremost, try to recognize that it is happening. If you find yourself checking social media more than once an hour, you may have a problem. A good first step might be to cut down on the frequency of checking to a more reasonable amount. Chances are, not a whole lot has changed since you last looked, and you are more likely than not just feeding a compulsion rather than actually accomplishing anything productive. If this task alone seems anxiety provoking, it may be time for a technology break. You can start by turning your phone/tablet/computer/watch off for a few hours each day and try to engage in something else. Maybe during this time you can actively communicate with your family or existing friends whom you have right in front of you. Or you can explore an untapped hobby or interest. Or maybe you can go outside and see the world around you. And if all of this doesn’t work for you, there is always the more permanent measure—disconnection. There are actually services out there that will disconnect you from all social media sites…permanently. It is a complete purge, and it is a very drastic step. Of course, if you are hesitant to go this far, you can also try to delete your accounts from your mobile devices so that you limit your access. No matter what you choose to do, it’s time to recognize that FOMO is a real problem, but it is definitely something from which you can recover. Acknowledging that you have it is the first step.



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