Last time, I wrote about an episode where I dealt with a panic attack and how I got some good perspective on mental health as a result. But I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about how in the present, social media and other forms of communication have affected my behaviour and my moods.

And so it was that I stumbled upon this great piece by Jenna Wortham on the phenomenon of FOMO (fear of missing out). As our lives become increasingly cluttered with information from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a host of other social media sites, we become ever more anxious that something will pass us by, some important social interaction will happen without us being involved. Wortham:

As the alerts came in, my mind began to race. Three friends, I learned, had arrived at a music venue near my apartment. But why? What was happening there? Then I saw pictures of other friends enjoying fancy milkshakes at a trendy restaurant. Suddenly, my simple domestic pleasures paled in comparison with the things I could be doing.

So we (and by ‘we’ I mean I) constantly flick through our feeds, pull to refresh, waiting for that next ‘ding’ of a notification.

It feels good to get those dings.

But pulling back from the daily buzz of activity, it seems we’re a generation caught in some kind of classical conditioning experiment, where the currency is likes, shares, favourites, retweets, mentions. Every day we’re stepping up to the digital feeder bar for more, and foregoing real human interaction, losing focus and wasting time, just for a fleeting second of validation.

So how does one fight this slippery slide to idiocracy? Are we destined to become the humans of Wall-E? I sure hope not.

I think Charlene deGuzman had the right idea with her short film, I Forgot My Phone. If we can all remember to forget our phones every once in a while, we might actually appreciate the world a little more, and have a little less fear of missing out.

 

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