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Have You Got A FOBO?

THE idea of not being connected to the internet has become unimaginable for some people. And this fear of not being able to get online at every instant has started to cause a new wave of anxiety.

Upon reading this one may scoff at the thought of people getting distressed by such a thing. But how would you react at not being able to get online for a day? Would it bother you?

This new mental health phenomenon has been labelled FOBO.The Fear of Being Offline (FOBO) is the lesser-known cousin of The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Laugh if you will, but I am sure you have at least felt that uncomfortable feeling that arises when you have misplaced your phone or it has run out of batteries. For some, no wi-fi means losing the plot. FOBO includes the fear of not being able to get online and check what is going on in your social media feed.

If you are finding that you have a well established routine of checking your social media sites before bed, first thing when you wake up, over breakfast, during work, over lunch, when you are in the company of others, as well as it being the last thing you do before bed, then I think it might be time to tick the ‘I have a FOBO’ box.

I have spent the past fortnight watching my kids each day at swimming lessons. I am perplexed at the amount of parents spending their time supervising around the pool while staring at their phones. The “Watch Around Water” signs pinned up everywhere do not mean Watch Your Mobiles. What an earth are we going to miss out on if we don’t check our social media for an hour? It’s not just at the pool that we are seeing this phenomenon.

It is entrenched in every aspect of our lives. We see it at traffic lights, shopping centres, beaches and workplaces. People walking across the road. I have seen it in restaurants. Couples staring lovingly… into each other’s mobile phones. How romantic.

The need to stay connected online has shaped the way we feel, think and behave. But you know what? We were doing OK before it came along. There was a time when we didn’t need to know about everything that was happening in the world right as it played out.

We didn’t need to know exactly what our friends were doing or eating at any given point of time. We didn’t need to know what Kim Kardashian was wearing or not wearing.

We were all doing perfectly fine with not knowing. In fact, it was better for our health.

Almost one in four Australian adults are heavy social media users, with adults averaging about 2.1 hours per day on social media. About one quarter of Australian adults, irrespective of their social media use, feel a sense of burnout from the constant connectivity to social media. FOBO is actually stressing us out.

We know that stress is not in the recipe for good health. What we also know from health research is doing nothing (also known as relaxing) is actually good for our health.

The social media connectivity that many have us have become addicted causes us to fill the void that ‘doing nothing’ once filled. The time that was once spent gazing out of the window, people watching or perusing the menu while we waited for a friend in a cafe, is now spent checking Facebook.

It’s robbing us of important chill out time that our minds and bodies used to unwind. Doing nothing is a good thing. And the importance of doing ‘nothing’ is underrated.

Most of our day is doing ‘something’ – whether it is work, studying, taking care of children or whatever else you keep yourself busy with.

Every time you look online, your eyes take in the information, the nerves send messages to your brain and then your brain makes sense of what you are seeing. What your brain then perceives changes your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It can turn a good day into a bad day. Taking ourselves offline gives us a chance to live in the present. When we have spare time, it is more beneficial for us to use it to do nothing.

For those of you who have a Fear Of Being Offline, give yourself a test this week. See if you can resist the urge to check what’s going on online. You will most likely find that you will miss out on absolutely nothing.

And this is something to be more fearful about.

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