October 18, 2011

FOMO: Fear Of Mission Out

In every class I teach the greatest point of contention between me and my students is their constant texting, IMing and Facebooking. Throughout the class I have to continuously monitor their under-the-desk, behind-the-bag use of technological communications. This is a constant drain of my energy and takes focus away from the class discussion. 

Unfortunately, I get it, as I too am addicted to checking my electronic communications. Thankfully, I am over the Facebook addiction, but not emailing and texting. What's at the root of this communications addiction? FoMo - Fear Of Missing Out. What if I miss an important email or text? From whom, I ask myself, and about what? 

The constant checking actually causes me anxiety. Thoughts that cross my mind include: 
--What if I receive a text, respond and then don't hear back from that person for minutes, hours, days, or weeks? Should I keep checking my phone every 30 seconds? 

--What if I receive an email from a friend with lots of details about their current concerns and I don't have the time to read it and properly respond? Will they be checking their phone every 30 seconds?

--What if I receive a message from someone unexpected and I need to contemplate a response, leaving the message unanswered for minutes, hours, days, or weeks? Will they forget about me, get upset and think our friendship over, or move on to someone who is more available? 

In an attempt to break my addiction, I've started locking my phone in the car or leaving it behind when I am out and about. To rationalize this action I tell myself, "when I get back to the phone, some new communications will have cooked-up and I will be inundated with new emails and texts." But really, why do I care, or even want that much communication? Most often I turn to the phone when I am in the middle of focused work, it offers a break. The result is that I get off track. It feels like eating a back of chips in the middle of an invigorating hike. 

So, my goal is to be more present with what I am doing in the moment, as opposed to endlessly checking my phone for what other people are doing. This intention is essential for stopping FOMO because it is becoming REMO - Really Missing Out.