The role of technology in provoking and sustaining FOMO is clear. Persistent connectivity, internet-driven information overload, and social media have reshaped how you live your life and how you conduct business. Apple, Google, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and the thousands of companies of all shapes and sizes that seek to carve out a little bit (or a lot) of your brain for themselves. If you hope to escape unscathed from the war for your attention, I have bad news for you. These companies are engaging in an epic and persistent battle to keep you using their products.
If you want to see the power that technology exerts on your daily life, you can easily take a pulse by undertaking a digital audit in order to better understand how you’re engaging with all of the forces that compete for your attention. As you do so, you can use one of the many apps or digital wellness features (such as those embedded in Apple and Android products) that will help you track your time both online and on your devices.
Who’s Winning the Battle for Your Consciousness?
Consider each of the questions below and take note of the answers.
Internet and Social Media Usage
- How much time do you spend online on a typical day?
- How much time do you spend on social media on a typical day?
- How many times do you check each of these sites and apps per day? How much time do you spend on them?
Google and other search engines
News sites (i.e. New York Times, CNN, Yahoo! News, Huffington Post, Google, Fox News)
Other (i.e. games, dating apps, podcasts, streaming music, etc.)
How often do you post to social media sites?
Do you keep track of how many likes you or others receive on social media posts?
Do you judge the quality of a post based on the number of likes it received?
Digital and Information Overload
- How many times per day do you check television or the internet for breaking news?
- How often do you check email?
- Do you have notifications enabled to alert you when you receive new messages or emails?
- When you receive a notification, do you act upon it immediately?
- When is the last time you have gone more than twelve hours without checking email or social media?
- Do you feel stress when you are separated from your digital devices?
- Do you feel a sense of relief when you check your email, messages, or social media accounts?
- When you are standing in line or waiting for someone, do you spend that period online?
Relationship with Devices
- How much time do you spend on your devices per day?
- How many times do you pick up your devices per day?
- Do you keep your phone near your bed when you’re sleeping?
- Do you check your phone immediately upon waking up in the morning?
- Do you check your phone immediately before going to sleep at night?
- Do you frequently surf the web or use social media apps while watching television?
- Do you keep your phone on the table during meetings or meals?
- Do you check your phone during conversations?
- Are you often distracted during conference calls or meetings because you’re online?
- Do family or friends complain that you spend too much time on your phone?
There are no “right” or “wrong” answers to the questions above. Depending on what you do for a living or where you are in your life, you may engage more or less with the internet and with your devices. But regardless of how you spend your days, you need to be aware of how digital devices are shaping them. If you look at your results and find that you are surprised at what you discover about yourself, then you’re not alone.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that technology is “bad.” The internet, and in particular social media, contributes plenty of valuable things to your life and to society as a whole. Thanks to these products, you can connect with friends, meet new people, find a romantic partner, spark a revolution, and raise awareness of critical issues that would never get the media’s attention otherwise. Still, whether it’s trolling for breaking news, spending hours with your earbuds firmly in place, or burying your nose in a phone all day, these distractions are systematically taking over your life and undermining all of your efforts to be decisive. In the process, the constant distraction keeps you from living in the present, enjoying the moment, and engaging with the world around you. Plus, it gives you FOMO.
- Patrick J. McGinnis, author of Fear of Missing Out