The ‘Fear of Missing Out’ epidemic

Perfect for "being present"

Perfect for “being present”

I pose the question’ are we so busy staying connected that we have disconnected?’ Are we so busy to dash off an email we forget that a quick phone call can not only do the trick but be more time effective (as well as build the relationship). Perhaps you prefer email to ‘sneaker net’ just popping by a colleagues desk to ask a quick question. Or worst of all what about the ‘copy everybody’ in the company into my correspond – so that they are all connected. When in fact people’s eyes glaze over at the mere thought of emptying their inbox.

Smartphones are well and truly part of our work life.. As I sat in a board meeting recently – I counted the number of smart phones sitting on the table face up – so a quick glance keeps the owner informed, however at that moment disconnecting from all those around the table.

“Be present” my inward self is ‘screaming’ – this is at epidemic proportions not just at work but at home. My concern is that such tools have become a ‘reflex’ rather than consciously considered.
I have been on a family holiday this week – in the most idyllic location just south of Port Douglas in far North Queensland. The house is right on a beach – and we have seen dolphins playing in the water right in front of the house. The sun sparkles and dances on the water – the palm trees are laden with coconuts. I have read two books in the hammock overlooking the beach.

There is limited mobile connection – but we do have wifi. Our teenagers are now in the final months of their high school studies – we deliberately chose a holiday that would allow them to disconnect and do home work in a quiet – ‘luxurious’ place. I have watched our teenagers this week never allow their smart phone to be more than a few meters from their hand… My daughter attempting to focus on her physics and chemistry is constantly interrupted with a snapchat from friends – often many ‘conversations’ going on at the same time. I urge her to set aside her phone so that she can concentrate; she looks at me as if I have asked her to cut off her arm.

She admitted that she doesn’t know how to turn off her phone – and that she ‘would miss out’ if she turned it off.

One of the teenagers wants to go to a concert with his mates the night of a family wedding, he thinks he can do both – even though there is two hours travel time between them. “But I have spent a week with you” he implored. “I have not seen my friends in a WHOLE week!” Yet he was constantly present with them via the phone.

Endlessly we are presented with images of what other people are doing in all forms of social media… we are bombarded every moment with what other people are eating, drinking, experiencing – not just people we know, but ‘celebrity’ gossip too. Everyone seems to be having so much more fun…. yet the art to happiness is being connected and present.

Recently I read an article with some new research from Deakin University. (I like the fact that as you get older you are likely to be happier) called the ‘Golden Triangle of Happiness’. Simply put it found that you are likely to be happy in you have these three things:

  • Someone who loves us
  • A household income that provides the necessities
  • Connected to the community

Life is not perfect, it is not a constant party – without sad or bad times it is hard to appreciated good times.

Our society is changing quickly. The world is shrinking; the amount of information is endless. Yet I am left wondering if I’m the dinosaur from a past era not keeping up with the times? Am I the old fashioned one urging people to ‘smell the roses’, ‘enjoy the journey’ ‘discover and see what is around you’?

What I do know is that depression is on the rise in western society.

These are the thoughts I am sharing with my teenagers? (Perhaps I could share them with the team at work too)

  • When making a choice about where you spend your time, ask ‘who will remember in a year from now?’ Your family is with you for a lifetime – friends come and go over the years.
  • Is the grass always greener? Is it possible to simply be where you are – be present, curious and enjoy it for what it is?
  • To give is to get – and the greatest gift you can give is your time, listening and presence. When you do this you will feel as sense of comfort and satisfaction.
  • More, more, more does not give you happiness. Comparing yourself to your friends and peers often leads to a great sense of insecurity and dissatisfaction.
  • Instead of living life based on a the fear of missing out… Perhaps live with respect, responsibility and resilience… and see if you move your own Personal Happiness Index – or perhaps at work where you could move your Personal Engagement Index too.

Let me know how you go. Are you going to put that smart phone away in the presence of others?

This entry was posted in Lessons Learned, LinkedIn and tagged , ,

3 Comments

  1. Robin
    Posted July 24, 2013 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    I’ve noticed couples in McDonalds and other public venues who sit opposite each other texting or doing something else on their smart phones. Nobody talks. Children who spend time shooting people on video games are not learning to read or write creative essays. All of us crave instant news updates and it’s becoming an obsession … keeping in touch. What did we do before mobile phones?

    Unfortunately, quick text shortcuts are also buggering up our English language. However, I expect we will cope one day when the novelty wears thin or is replaced by something else.

  2. Posted July 28, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    No Naomi, you’re not the “old fashioned” one, you are simply fortunate to have grown up when you did which gave you a solid grounding of the really important things in life.

    I am filled with despair for the future by the sheer volume of so-called ‘social media’ that seems hell-bent on enticing so many people, both young and older, to abandon generations-old standards of behaviour, compassion, connectedness and respect.

    From my experience ‘social media’ has a particular appeal to those with a need for more ‘me’ recognition than they got (or are getting) from their parents while growing up. In previous generations most juveniles only had a temporary need to be accepted by the ‘herd’, however the pull of ‘social media’ makes it very difficult for parents of today’s teenagers to encourage their children to move past that stage and become mature young adults, by achieving more than the ‘herd’ and therefore being ‘different’.

    The acceptance of the ever-increasing variety of ‘social media’ devours so much precious time. Each day is unique and is never repeated. Mature adults understand this and place ‘social media’ very low on their priorities list. Young people are still learning what’s really important in life, so it is vital they know how to ‘switch off’ – especially when studying for exams and, most importantly, to prevent an unnecessary dependency from taking hold.

  3. MicheleS
    Posted July 28, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Since posting, I’ve found and read this useful article on the subject 3 Strategies to Beat Your Fear of Missing Out

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