In 2014, when the Canadian rock duo, Death From Above 1979 wrote the song “Always On”, they were talking about technology making us stay online. Two years later, it’s all the more relevant as we wake up to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Tumblr… the list goes on.
So on one hand you have an endless stream of information coming in. On the other hand, work is piling up. I started writing this article an hour ago and I managed to write only the intro. Reason? I’ve been alternating between Facebook and Twitter. Even if I manage to keep my phone away, I make sure my newsfeed is on my homescreen so as not to miss a tweet/post.
There’s actually a term for this – FoMO , Fear of Missing Out. In July 2013, Andrew Przybylski (a bigshot researcher and scholar in the field of internet and psychology) and his team defined FoMO as “a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing”. In other words, FoMo is a byproduct of a digital culture that keeps us bordering on ADHD in trying to keep up with everything.
So you’re planning to work or study and you can’t keep your hands off your phone. Or you’ve checked your newsfeed through and through and you’re still refreshing the page in hopes of something interesting coming up. You’re bored on social media and off it. Meanwhile, clocks be ticking! How do you concentrate on the work at hand?
You’re not going to get anything done with the nagging feeling in your head when you see a notification , so might as well check it out . But don’t stick around forever. One good strategy is to note the amount of time you need to go through the newsfeed (about 7 minutes) and make it a point to log out once you’re done.
So you’ve realized you have a problem and want to do something about it. To help you get started, you can download the app called Quality Time (it’s free) which calculates the amount of time you’re spending on a particular app and notifies you when you’re above the threshold. (You can adjust the threshold anytime you want). Guaranteed, this app will not be your best friend straight off but, in time, you’ll realize what a blessing it is.
Now this is hard. If you have trouble concentrating, a notification alert will probably make it worse. Do the impossible, unsubscribe. It doesn’t mean you won’t be notified if someone comments on your post. It means, you won’t be notified on your homescreen, i.e, you have to log into the app to see the notification. If you use your laptop more than your phone, be sure to logout after using a website as well. And close the damn tab. Decreasing social media access will make it easier for you to disengage, specially when you have important work to do.
A little help from Psychology
FoMO is not just an internet phenomenon. Research is being undertaken to study its effects on human subjects (us, lol, we’re the guinea pig generation) but it has already been established that the effects are more negative than good. Anxiety, Adult ADHD, Addiction,sleep deprivation – there are a lot of side-effects to digital culture. Psychology Today has posted extensively about it . If you think you’re suffering from a serious problem , check out these articles to assess where you stand. Seek help, if needs be.
Most importantly, remember what is being posted on social media is more about projecting an image than depicting reality. Social media shows you the best part of someone’s life, not their real problems. Memes are a great way to take your mind off things, but they provide temporary relief. And retweets are not a measure of your self-worth. Disengaging from the virtual reality is important. Keep your phone away for a few hours each day. Take a walk, meet up with your friend or talk to your parents, cook (without posting about it on instagram), read a book, or meditate.
We are the digital generation. It’s next to impossible to go back to the Stone Age of no smartphones (unless there’s an alien invasion that wipes off all virtual data). We are bombarded with information all day and we love it! But when it interferes with work, make sure to apply these tips so that you’re not overwhelmed. Let’s be in love with social media, but not controlled by it.
Illustration courtesy Authority Domains