I was catching up with a business associate the other day.
He recently split up with his significant other, which took me by surprise and made me sad. The reason was a case of terminal FOMO. She couldn’t be “there” even when she was. If you don’t know that term, it’s been used of late to describe Fear Of Missing Out . I think the term began with people missing parties or other great events but is now commonly used with respect to the never-ending stream of electronic communications that flood our daily lives. Emails, Facebook updates, texts, tweets, Instagram photos – you know the drill. Many of us can’t turn away from the stream. As this article noted:
(FOMO) is a very real feeling that’s starting to permeate through our social relationships. The question is — will we ever settle for what we have, rather than cling to the fear that we may be missing out on something better? Social media like Facebook and Twitter are making this increasingly more difficult.
I’d expand that notion to business emails as well. I’ve written before about how we all have some form of digitally induced ADD. We’re so concerned about missing out on something in our screen-based worlds that we ignore the important stuff right in front of us. Conversations (the oral kind) with friends and family. Enjoying a beautiful sunset or a musical performance without worrying about if the shot you’re taking to post is in focus or composed nicely. I wonder about the effect of social networking and texting on the development of emotional and social intelligence. A whole generation has grown up thinking it’s normal to not be particularly present during a face to face conversation. I can’t get used to people checking their phones in a meeting, much less at dinner.
I’m old school enough to remember the world pre-email, much less pre-social media. There seemed to me enough time to think about things carefully as well as to enjoy the conversations (in person or via the telephone) and the quiet in between. Obviously I appreciate the things all these technologies bring to us – efficiency, real marketing engagement, immediacy among them – but like ice cream and wine, too much isn’t so good for you.
If there’s a business point today, it’s to encourage those with whom you work to be a little less connected digitally and a lot more connected IRL – in real life. Try it yourself. As this recent piece asks – is it time to wean yourself off the smartphone? Maybe for a little while each day? What do you think?