Do You Feel Guilty When You’re Not “Connected”?

By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
Photo by Brittany Beach

With so many channels of communication vying for our attention, we can feel compelled to keep up with all the chats, posts, tweets and conversations going on. In fact, that compulsion is now recognized as a legitimate psychological dependency and has a name—FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” It’s especially prevalent among younger social media users, but adults are not immune. If not checked, it can lead to social media addiction. Your brain actually produces dopamine which is addictive.

Of course, you have to keep up with your business correspondence, whether that’s email, texts, queries to your website or social media platforms, or posts to a collaborative workspace platform. I’m talking about all those other ways we now are connected to family, friends, colleagues, peers, business associates, influencers and thought leaders, alerts, etc., etc. If someone in our network posts a comment or photo and a number of others respond, we feel we have to respond, too, for fear of appearing uncaring or impolite. We don’t want to be the only one in the crowd not cheering or saluting.

The problem is, the flood of communications never stops and keeps growing. Trying to keep up with it all distracts from the more important things you should be doing. Plus, it’s exhausting! As author Eric Barker so aptly put it in an article on the FOMO phenomenon in Time magazine, the sense of guilt and anxiety over not keeping up “drives you to keep running around the digital hamster wheel to feel okay with yourself.” Studies show that, on the contrary, fretting over not keeping up tends to increase the user’s anxiety and lower their sense of self-esteem, potentially driving them from compulsion to addiction.

If you’re one of those who feels anxious and guilty whenever you tell yourself you’re not going to check your smart phone every 30 seconds, I say, “Get off the hamster wheel!” It’s really okay if you’re not among the first to respond to a text, post or tweet. Take some quality time away from the digital deluge. Block out digital-free time in the evenings and on weekends. Let correspondents know when you go on vacation that you will be “offline” and set auto reply messages telling them when you’ll be back and respond to their message. Most importantly, give yourself permission to be the one who decides when and how you will respond, if at all. By the same token, don’t worry if you don’t receive a huge response to one of your posts. Other people are busy, too. Respect that.

Getting a handle on your digital correspondence routine is about more than just not falling prey to the FOMO phenomenon. It’s about not letting other people run your life with their priorities. Your digital connections should be a diversion, not a distraction or a disease. Set your own limits and focus on what you want to accomplish. You’ll feel a lot better about yourself, and the people who really care about you will still be there when you have time to check in with them.

Another article of interest is, How Important is Social Media for Your Design Business?…tips on managing social media and achieving success.

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