I suffer from a very strange affliction that has no medical cure, and yet is nothing that should cause worry for my friends, family, or anyone at the Mayo Clinic.
It’s called FoMO.
Fear of Missing Out.
FoMO means you can’t take a hike through the north Georgia mountains without checking your inbox. There’s no enjoying an afternoon on the front porch swing without pondering the trending hashtags on Twitter. Your wife is in the midst of providing detail of Uncle Henry’s appendectomy, when you hear Facebook calling.
Imagine arriving at work to find your co-workers discussing the wildly popular video of Bigfoot chasing a DUI suspect on Georgia 400. You search your rancid breakroom coffee for a way to contribute. You spent the previous night organizing your collection of flavored dental floss. You’re a newsman who is out of the loop, a virtual sasquatch in a viral video world.
There’s nothing wrong with staying up-to-date, but my affliction goes above and beyond. I work the morning shift, which means I typically get home around 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The work day is over. Supposedly. Not for my brain. The rest of the world continues to work, and I need to know what the world is doing. I continue to check my emails. I check Twitter. Then my email. Then Twitter. Finally, I force myself to unplug by going on a long walk. Hey, iPhones need exercise, too. Step, step, Facebook. Step, step, email.
All day long, I’m stimulated by a bombardment of information. It’s more powerful than caffeine. I come home with a buzz that’s difficult to calm. I want more. I have to have more.
I’m reading a book written by a man who attempts one year adhering literally to the rules of the Bible. When he gets to the part about setting aside one day of the week for rest, he struggles. He makes his own rules. He decides it’s okay to check email, as long as he’s just reading the topic line. He knows that’s not following the Bible literally, but…he simply can’t help himself. One day away from the stimulation is like leaving a child on a deserted island.
There’s a reason why our brains have an off switch. No one can go full speed every moment of every day. You need to recharge. I’m not sure why I have to work so hard at not working.
I like the Chick-fil-A approach to the problem. The restaurant chain encourages diners to place their iphones in a “coop” during their meal. And leave it there. No Instagram checks. No looking at a text. Imagine. Your attention is free to have an actual conversation with your dining partner. Finish your meal without a single swipe of the screen, and you get a free ice cream.
Me? I’m lactose intolerant. Of course.
My brother owns a cabin that we visit on occasion where there is no cell service. None. It’s in a place called Luck, North Carolina, which isn’t a town as much as it is, well, my brother’s cabin. We spend peaceful days there going on hikes along the nearby Appalachian Trail. We sit by the fire pit and read. Conversations are filled with laughter rather than stress. With a little Luck, you’re forced to unplug.
I need bring a little Luck to my home. Maybe I’ll create a little coop where my urge-to-know can take a timeout for a few hours a day. I know my brain could use the rest.
There. I finished this blog without once pausing to check email or Twitter.
Now I need to work on my honesty.