You leave your house, you’re halfway to your destination, and you realize you left your phone at home. Amidst a search of purse and pockets, your heart races and your mind flashes over the texts you’ll miss, and the work emails you won’t be able to respond to asap. You think to yourself that today, something of significance will happen while you are completely disconnected from the world. Sound familiar?
Most of us have been in this situation, it is called FOBO – fear of being offline. In this fast, ever-evolving social media generation, it’s no secret that our phones have made their way into our lives as an on-going necessity.
What is FOBO?
FOBO refers to the fear of being offline. It refers to the separation anxiety that washes over you when your phone isn’t on you, when your battery dies, when there’s no wifi, you name it. Just like teenagers worry about missing out on their group chat, adults also worry about being unplugged from work-related connections.
When does it become unhealthy?
Where most of us have difficulty is being able to set clear boundaries between work life and home life. Work-related matters after hours should be the exception not the rule. For those that work from home, a schedule must be set before the lines begin to blur between work and me/family time. FOBO becomes unhealthy when the inner anxiety gets to the point where we are compulsively checking our inbox i.e. at dinner, while bathing the kids, when in bed etc.
Mental health specialists fear that FOBO is causing a significant increase in workaholism. Employees fear that not responding quickly could result in lost opportunities, problems with their supervisors and coworkers etc. Realistically, everyone is caught up in work and the expectation of immediate responses is not possible unless you are an on call emergency room doctor.
FOBO can also leak into our productivity, causing us to be less efficient in our work. Interrupting our tasks to check emails and notifications cause us to lose momentum in our projects, making it difficult to get back on task.
Unfortunately, the fear of being offline and being attached to our phones 24/7 can prevent us from being fully present with family, friends or in the enjoyment of personal activities.
FOBO allows for a lingering anxiety that keeps us on edge and on call, ready to respond to the next text/email alert.
How do we go from FOBO to JOBO?
Moving towards JOBO – joy of being offline – is set limits. While checking our notifications has its time and place, enriching our lives through digital boundaries is a must for good mental health and overall wellbeing. Setting digital boundaries around emails, texts, net surfing and social media It can help reduce our cortisol levels caused by stress. Setting these needed boundaries will allow us to relish mindfully in the time we spend away from our screens.
Here are three quick tips to move toward JOBO:
First, keep your phone away from you for segments of time. If turning off notifications all together is too drastic for you, then set your phone aside in another room. Not having it physically in front of you will stop you from impulsively unlocking it and digging around your communication apps.
Second, realize that you are not obligated to respond after-hours. Work isn’t everything, and neither is responding right away. If it can wait until the next day and you don’t have an important deadline you have to meet, let go of the urge to open the email. A great tip is to pick an hour of the evening, let’s say 8pm, when you set your phone to ‘do not disturb’ mode, or airplane mode.
Lastly, lead by example to those around you. Kids cannot learn emotional intelligence and empathy from screens.
Work and live mindfully, and soon enough you’ll naturally embrace the path of personal and professional JOBO. In situations where overcoming an unhealthy attachment to cellphone use or social media is too big of a mountain to climb, Vancouver life coaching can make a genuine difference in guiding you towards the unique path right for you.
For a deeper look into FOBO, the fear of being offline, check out this article by Well & Good.