Apps can cause FOMO

Are we unknowing participants in a potentially harmful experiment?

Are we creating challenges to our own health and happiness, causing a fraying of the fibre of society?

The answer may be yes. Programmers design their apps to be addictive.

Over-use of technology comes with many negative consequences:

  • reduced cognitive ability,
  • poorer short-term memory
  • learning and sleep disorders
  • depression, anxiety, loneliness
  • relationship challenges are among the mix.

Technology has both benefits and challenges.

I’ve succumbed. For many years, I refused to open a Facebook account. Now, I have one, but it’s on my terms.

I’m a conscious user of social media, limiting the time I spend and using it to keep me in the loop of what’s happening. I use what I learn to connect more deeply, in real time, with those I care about.

It’s when we stay hidden behind our screens, shunning real social interaction that problems develop.

A form of social anxiety called fear of missing out, or FOMO, has been identified in people addicted to social media.

In this, we can forget that only juicy bits are posted, not the mundane. We post what’s bright and shiny, leaving out the boring pieces of real life. The life of the observer can seem to pale.

High levels of FOMO are a driving force behind chronic use of social media, and are related to low levels of satisfaction with one’s life.

The twist with FOMO is being addicted to social media, which creates a wall between us and those next to us, who are available for us to connect with.

Unless we’re being mindful, social media becomes the substitute for real human interaction, often creating an increased sense of loneliness and isolation.

The very thing we use to create a sense of greater connection with our vast networks causes us to feel isolated and lonely.

Technology and social media are wonderful tools when they’re used with awareness. I love that I can read the news and columns such as this because of technology. I like my mindfulness apps.

Awareness and mindfulness are key.

Often, when consumed with the sexy screen in our hands, we’re paying more attention to the virtual world than the real one. I’ve been guilty of only half-listening to a loved one because my mind is focused on what I’ve just read on the silvery screen.

I’m correcting that.

It’s good to know losing the ability to remember is not necessarily about function, it’s often because we’ve stopped trying to remember.

I’d stopped trying to remember fun facts and answers to those little questions like, “What’s the actor’s name who played in…?” and just ask Mr. Google.

I now resist those urges. I’m delighted as I remember obscure points without having the answer provided to me. This is helping my memory.

Train your brain, exercise it more. Simple things help.

Try becoming mindful when introduced to new people and challenge yourself to remember names. Or, memorize the phone numbers you use most often instead of relying on your contact list.

Work often demands we spend a good part of our day using technology. Get up and move around frequently, go for a walk, take a few deep, conscious breaths to recalibrate the brain.

Try taking a sabbatical from technology on your days off.

Sitting upright is also helpful. When our heads are slumped forward, they are in resting mode which reduces alertness. When I’ve been sitting this way, putting my device down feels like re-entering the world, waking up. I now understand why; I was half-asleep.

Reach out, make social connections.

We’ve gotten used to it, but placing your device on the table suggests to people they aren’t very important and, should the magical marvel ring or buzz, something more interesting could be happening.

Try not to plop your iPhone on the table when meeting with friends and, if you dare, leave it on silent. You can make this a commitment among your group of friends.

It’s best to use only one screen at a time. No surfing Facebook or playing games while watching TV, and no bouncing back-and-forth between your cell and computer screen.

Rather than checking our phones, it’s refreshing to pause, relax, and check in with ourselves when we wait in lines.

Taking a few deep, conscious breaths is powerful medicine. It calms the brain.

Mindfulness practices are very helpful in:

  • increasing attention
  • improving memory and cognitive function
  • reducing anxiety and depression.

smartUBC Mindfulness program has been life-changing for me and many others. This program, a unique combination of mindfulness, emotion, and forgiveness theory offers the practices, as well as the science and support, to help participants be successful in incorporating the practices into their lives.

New smartUBC mindfulness classes are starting next week. Contact me if you are interested.

Let’s be the ones who mindfully use technology for our benefit, not to our detriment. I don’t want to be a guinea pig.

Invasion of the zombies

I’m in a love-hate relationship.

No, it’s nothing to do with my husband. It’s with my iPhone.

One of the best and the worst things was finally upgrading to a phone that could receive emails. So convenient. Maybe too convenient.

As a mindfulness practitioner, I’m keenly aware of the challenges created by the virtual reality of our minds, where we ruminate on the past or worry about the future.

Our minds can keep us from experiencing the present moment. In this virtual reality of our minds, so much of life’s richness is missed, often fuelling the fight-or-flight response.

In today’s society the growing dependency on our digital devices adds fuel to the fire.

It’s so easy to get sucked into the vortex of technology’s virtual world. I know, because it started happening to me.

My awareness of the growing epidemic of cell phone addiction heightened when I viewed a photo series, Removed, by Eric Pickersgill. 

Pickersgill captured photos of people in modern life, consumed by their devices, except the devices were removed from their hands; an image all too familiar becomes odd and absurd.

This photo series was a cold slap of reality. The stark truth of what’s happening caused me to wake up and notice the isolating and intrusive nature of life married to digital devices.

I realized how I was also becoming addicted to my phone, and began noticing the effect in today’s world. It causes me concern.

During a recent visit to beautiful Coal Harbour in Vancouver, more than 75 per cent of the people I saw were either looking at, or looking through their device. Families and friends standing together, each totally alone as they were absorbed in the virtual reality of technology.

I call it the invasion of the zombies.

As one of my mindfulness students mused, “Beware the cyber-toothed tiger!”

There are many health costs arising from cellphone addiction.

Technology is good, but overusing it creates challenges for the cognitive function of our brains.

It may be startling to realize the abilities of our brains are changing due to the increased use of technology.

We are harming our ability to remember and to solve simple problems on our own.

How many phone numbers are you able to remember?

Are you able to quickly calculate sale prices in your head?

Our spatial awareness is being altered through the use of Google Maps.

Use it or lose it.

As I stood with a young clerk in a store recently, she was shocked when I quickly calculated the final price of an item when the sale price was 20 per cent off. She was impressed.  I’m concerned she was impressed.

Digital dementia, a term coined by Manfred Spitzer in 2012, is the breakdown of the brain’s ability to think. Poor short-term memory, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders are only a few of the consequences of the overuse of technology.

I grew concerned when I noticed my tendency to reach for my device to simply pass the time. I frequently see people eating out, absorbed in scrolling on their device. Do they even notice what they’ve eaten?

Through the holiday season, I paid attention to the people who were sitting at the mall waiting. Most were glued to their phones, and only very few just sat and engaged in the age-old delight of people watching.

Injuries from distracted walking are on the rise. I’ve had people walk straight into me on the streets with their eyes transfixed by their screens. Thank goodness I’m not a car.

Distracted people are increasingly walking into traffic, unaware of their surroundings. It’s becoming such a problem some municipalities are now banning texting while walking. It’s hard to believe.

What to do?

Awareness is curative.

Utilizing the weekly screen time report on your phone is a great way to draw attention to your use of your device. Being mindful of your usage can lead to positive change.

Notice your own habits with technology. As we say in mindfulness, be gentle, patient and kind in your noticing. Be curious. Self-criticism is not helpful, but gaining insight into your own ways is a place to begin.

Next week, I will continue the conversation. I’ll share the consequences of digital over-use and some strategies for using technology without technology using you.

Your big secret

If you don’t think you matter, then listen up.

You, and who you are, matter more than you know. You are important.

No matter what you do in life, the way you show up makes a difference; maybe more than you know.

You can profoundly affect the lives of other people, for the good, or the not so good. The choice is yours.

As I prepared for the holidays, I met several people whose demeanour added good to my day. Crazy at it sounds, I still think about those special interactions and people, even though they were weeks ago.

Simple, every-day interactions take on a special quality when they’re wrapped in the gift of your unique presence.

I was reminded of this when my husband and daughter returned from a trip to the mall, laughing, smiling and telling stories of the lovely clerk who helped them in the jewelry store.

My husband doesn’t like shopping, yet he was happy, because of this one young woman and her personable service. The story of her wonderful way was shared as the gift that they bought from her was opened.

I learned an important lesson a long time ago that changed the way I show up in life.

I was blessed to meet a special woman who shared my unusual first name, which made me feel an instant connection to her.

Interestingly, I soon realized I wasn’t the only one who felt connected with her. Everyone seemed uplifted by even a few minutes with this special lady.

Corinne Armour lived her entire life working in a grocery store in Trail. I had come  from the big city of Calgary and found it strange when people would line up at her till, even when other lines were empty. It made no sense to me.

Then, I experienced her. Despite the long lineups at her cash register, she never seemed too busy to warmly greet each person and ask a few questions. I felt seen and important, as I’m certain everyone did.

Soon, I was also lining up at Corinne’s till, pleased to wait, just to have a few moments to say hello, as I paid for my groceries.

I always felt something special had happened. Grocery shopping took on new meaning. Crazy, hey?

Everyone loved her. Everyone in town knew her name. She worked at a grocery store.

When Corinne was killed in a car accident, her funeral was held in the largest venue possible. Even then, people spilled into the streets.

Everyone came to pay tribute to this woman who worked at, what some might consider, a simple job.

Stories were shared of how Corinne’s caring uplifted and helped so many people. She had actually saved lives as she ministered from behind her till as she’d say, “What’s up sports fans?”

The magic was her. The magic is you.

What matters most is you, and the way you do what you do.

It’s the personal factor, the way we each show up that makes what we do special. This is what touches people.

Anyone can learn a task, but what’s essential is taking the opportunities for human connection in our everyday lives.

An interesting thing happens when we make the effort to wake up and engage with the people we encounter in our day-to-day living. Mundane activities become a pleasure.

As we wake up and engage with others, we experience the benefits of our own caring. In nursing, we call it the reciprocity of care.

Our bodies and minds are uplifted by the very act of our care for another.

We’ve all experienced those wonderful feelings inside when doing acts of kindness. We feel good.

The lesson I learned at Corinne’s cash register transformed my life. I make new friends everywhere I go.

I make a point to engage with the people I serve and those who serve me.

I love seeing each person uniquely. Even those who I’d deem crabby or disengaged appear to come to life when a personal connection is made.

I must admit to feeling joy when I’m able to leave a person a little better than I found them.

What is important is knowing you’re important.

The way you do what you do matters. You and your way of being are the secret ingredient no one else has.

Critic or coach?

People would hate us if we spoke to them the way we speak to ourselves.

As the New Year approaches, I hear people talking about making resolutions using the voice of the harsh self-critic. This makes me cringe.

If we think being hard on ourselves helps create positive change in our lives, we’re wrong.

Having the ability to take stock and determine areas where we want to change or grow is helpful, but it’s important to notice when negative self-talk and the voice of the nasty critic enter in.

This critic isn’t helpful in creating lasting change. We can only bully ourselves into change for so long. The trail of failed resolutions is a result of a self-bullying mentality.

Negative self-talk engages the fight-or-flight response in our brains and bodies.

Our brains aren’t able to create new and lasting habits when the stress response is engaged. Research shows we don’t learn or create lasting change when we’ve bullied ourselves with a critical voice. This is one reason many New Year resolutions fail.

We learn best in an atmosphere of safety and self-compassion. I’ve learned best when my teachers created an atmosphere of caring and safety for me to learn and even make mistakes.

My best teachers had compassion.

According to Mark Leary, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, an attitude of self-compassion is an important ingredient of positive change.

Self-compassion is not putting on blinders. We won’t turn into blobs of non-productive matter when we are compassionate with ourselves. Self-kindness helps us to see even challenging situations in our lives more clearly.

Becoming a compassionate coach rather than chastising fault finder supports our success.

I once had a large committee of internal critics, which I gave a name I can’t mention here.

If I’d met such people, I’d never hang out with them. My committee was extremely unkind, yet I entertained them for long periods of time. Not only would I invite them in, but I’d stay up all night chatting with them.

It never felt good, but it was my habit.

Repetitive thoughts are just old, well-practised, neural pathways. They’re like ruts in a well-travelled road. We can get stuck in the ruts that take us to the same old places we’ve always travelled.

When we have a habit of thinking negative thoughts about ourselves it becomes the default mode.

We can make new habits of thought. Stopping and noticing what we’re thinking and what we’re saying to ourselves is key.

I’ve long used an exercise that was helpful in changing the inner-critic to a compassionate coach. I call it Becoming Your Own Best-Friend.

  • When you become aware of negative self-talk rolling through your brain, stop, and notice how it feels. Get curious about where that voice comes from.
  • Don’t believe everything you think. You are not your thoughts. Just because you had a thought doesn’t mean it’s true.
  • Once you catch yourself being self-abusive, ask yourself what you’d say to your  best friend on the same topic. Would you tell them they’re lazy, stupid, fat, or a failure? Would you chew them out by reminding them of every time they’ve failed in the past?  I doubt it. Instead, offer yourself the same compassion and advice you’d offer to someone you care about.

According to psychologist Elizabeth Scott, positive and motivational self-talk is the greater predictor of success. This means we do better when we encourage ourselves kindly. 

When it comes to making resolutions, consider becoming your own best friend. Consider being compassionate toward yourself, wanting the very best for yourself. Consider how you’d coach or support your best friend, and then do the same for yourself.

Encourage yourself. Do not berate yourself.

May your resolutions include firing your internal committee of critics and becoming a compassionate coach with yourself. Develop self-compassion and engage what science is finding when it comes to creating lasting and positive change in your life.

Self-compassion and kindness are key to positive change.

Happy New Year!

More New Thought articles

About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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