The FOMO Diagnosis

Today, we're digging deeper into the idea of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Picture this, a guy wakes up in the middle of the night and groggily reaches for his fix. Not immediately finding it where he thought he left it, he is now fully awake. The lights are on, and he's in an irritated search throughout his bedroom. Irritation gives way to anxiety when he still can't get relief for the need that is now starting to press at his psyche.

If he's planned ahead for such nightmare scenarios, he runs to his computer and uses his favorite cell phone locator app. If not, perhaps he can get a roommate to make a call to his phone for him.

After all, he just needs to check his status.

While the story above might sound a bit ridiculous for those who don't focus on their incoming messages, my guess is that plenty of folks know exactly what I'm talking about. It's not just the thought of losing a piece of technology that may be expensive to replace; it's that we have this need to know. We need to know if someone responded to our email, liked our post, retweeted us, ousted us as mayor of the coffee shop down the street... You get the idea.

In The Tyranny of Email, author John Freeman talked about the literal emotional charge that we get from checking our email. It actually triggers some of the same parts of the brain as pulling the lever (or pushing the button) on a slot machine. "Will I win this time? Will I get something I didn't have before?"

Mobile Means We Can Always Have Our Addictions

Email used to be something confined to our desktop computers. You could lose lots of productivity time at your day job while you were supposed to be working on something else, but the problem was at least confined. At home, the obsession was maybe just keeping you from a game of solitaire.

But with mobile capabilities, we enable email to have control at any time. Compound that with all the many social media services, news services and anything else you might be subscribed to on your mobile, and you'll never be without some sort of notification. Those little electronic chimes are more reliable than any puppy could ever be.

Living in The Matrix

The first Matrix movie is one of my favorite movies ever. I love kung-fu movies and apocalyptic movies and sci-fi, and the Matrix did an amazing job of tying that stuff all together. What struck me the most about the film as I re-watched it recently is that we don't have the fear of machinery like the characters in the movie do. We aren't being forcibly plugged into a vat to harvest our energy.

We're plugging ourselves in.

It's not a battle. We're willing to give our energy and attention to these devices. Not that using all these new tools is bad, because many areas of life have improved with technological aide. The distinction is that we could march ourselves into a cocoon where we never notice the non-digital world - and all of the people in it - again.

That's the funny part about being so sociable online - we end up losing the opportunities to be with the people that are right next to us in, you know, the physical world.

What Do You Think?

Tomorrow, we'll look at some of the mechanics to un-tether from an instant notification life.

The real question for today is, do you think a life guided by pinging notifications is a bad thing? Are we simply overreacting to technology changing the good ol' ways that we're so used to?

Featured image by Thomas Hawk