For most of us constant texting with co-workers, family members, pals and staying active on social media platforms is the norm of the day. With almost all of our daily interactions having moved from the real to the virtual world, it has become a necessity of sorts to be online at all times. Because if we don’t, it means missing out conversations and falling behind, or not being up to date with whatever is going around in the world. News, updates from friends, nasty virtual spats, vital conversations; we want to be part of as many of these as we can. This desire could, however, be giving us the fear of missing out, or what millennials call FOMO. That could also be the reason why you have been feeling so stressed lately.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • It has become a necessity of sorts to be texting all the times.
  • The desire could however be giving us the fear of missing out.
  • This could also be the reason why you have been feeling so stressed lately.
  • We all need to break the pattern of feeling obliged to be connected all the time and then checking the phone out of habit.

News, updates from friends, nasty virtual spats, vital conversations; we want to be part of as many of these as we can.

Speaking to Thrive Global, Mike Brooks, author of Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper-Connected World, said that fear of missing out is what causes us to constantly check our devices — and our group text threads — so we feel underlying pressures to stay up to date with every message that comes our way. “We also fear that we’ll offend someone if we’re unresponsive,” he says. The result is that networking has, in fact, ended us giving more stress, instead of making our lives easier.

Constantly checking the phone for messages and updates is a beast I’ve been trying to tackle myself. I know how much it hampers my life, as I take repeated breaks from work to text or network. Every time I hear a ping on my phone it becomes a battle with my will power to resist the temptation to pick it up. It impedes my work and it distracts me even when I am spending time with family. Even at bedtime, a mere ping holds the power to draw me from the edge of sleep and reach out for my phone. I know many people will relate to this struggle. It isn’t just about texting with your loved ones, or checking for messages from work. I remember someone on social media comparing it to checking your fridge every half an hour, despite knowing what’s exactly in it. It becomes a compulsion.

You know it is time for a change when a certain habit is affecting everything from your work, to personal life and even sleep.

So what can be done? Should we give up texting altogether? Well, that is not possible for most of us. But we can set some rules for sure. The first one is to prioritise. Set a hierarchy of what is the most important conversation you must be a part of, working your way to what can wait for later. This means muting a few groups on WhatsApp and prioritising the social media platforms you are active on. Start by setting different alert tones for every platform, so that you know just by the ping if it deserves your immediate attention or not. After that, it is all about developing a will power to resist the pings from conversations low on your priority list.

Start by setting different alert tones for every platform, so that you know just by the ping if it deserves your immediate attention or not.

Another thing we need to train ourselves in is letting go. Tell yourselves, it is okay to miss out. It is fine if you have to hear about some news update an hour later than others. Or if you find out that your friend purchased a new car the next morning. We all need to break the pattern of feeling obliged to be connected all the time and then checking phone out of habit. Also, as important as prioritising is setting boundaries for others and yourself. Which means setting aside a window during which you will not check social media or respond to messages. It’ll be hard to stick to it for sure, but it is so worth it.

Stress related to social networking is a reality we cannot deny anymore. FOMO is real, and so is the anxiety and compulsion to check your phone, when you hear a ping. But there comes a time when you have to decide how much of this stress can be cut back by taking simple measures and choosing peace over being constantly updated.

Picture credits: Newscrab

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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