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.

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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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