I have embedded technology into my life. I wake up to an alarm on my phone, then I lay in bed scrolling through Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat to catch up on anything I might have missed while I was sleeping. Then I go to class, probably having checked my phone again in between getting out of bed and stepping into my classroom.
Once in classroom, I probably look at my laptop at least once to check my schedule of the day and any impending assignments that need my attention. Gaining my attention and keeping it seems to be an increasingly hard task to accomplish. As Ben Huh mentioned in his Ted Talk, attention spans are suffering due to the overload of seemingly attention worthy things in our world. I can tell in my own life that my attention is strained. Douglas Rushkoff writes in Program or Be Programmed of the increasing anxiety levels people experience at the prospect of leaving an unanswered email or text. He brings up the forgotten point that there is no time frame for responding. The ticking clock is an internal notion that we need to send out a reply as soon as possible, or worse, prioritize the response over face-to-face contact. I all too well understand the pressure of maintaining a digital profile and keeping up with endless online hoards of messages. By completing my assignment reading and learning all ways I am bound to my devices, I was swept up by a rush of separation anxiety from being away from my phone. This made me realize how awfully connected I am to it all. I don’t believe technology is evil; it has made many advancements in a plethora of fields to improve the quality of human lives. But, too much of a good thing is not always a good thing. While social media has made it easier to stay connected with my distant friends, it has also swept me, and my peers, into a FOMO frenzy. FOMO– an acronym standing for fear of missing out- is an increased feeling of disconnection from friends largely due to social media.
I have experienced FOMO plenty of times. For example, if I decide I want to spend one Friday night unwinding with a Netflix binge instead of hanging out with my friends, pictures or videos of them together flooding social media will turn my relaxing night into an anxiety-ridden one. A wave of instant regret is a common symptom, and nightmares of all the fun you may be missing out on creep into your thoughts. Your friends are not trying to make you feel bad about practicing some much needed me-time. The sorrow is self-generated, as well as the anxiety over social media and digital correspondence. The goal of technology was never to make individual’s lives worse- that’s the complete opposite! The only cure to these ordeals is to change our personal perspectives and control our devices- not let them control us.