The kids were hesitant, but agreed. It was a nice meal. We talked, we read the paper together, we enjoyed our meal, and we all made it to the end. When the bill arrived though, there was a mad dash for our phones. No one spoke for a good five minutes. There were missed calls and text messages to check, tweets to read, pictures to look at, and status updates to like. I looked around and said, “What is wrong with us?!?” My daughter glanced up from her phone, “It’s FOMO, Mom.”
FOMO…Fear Of Missing Out. What exactly are we so scared we are missing? Is what’s on the phone screen truly more important than the flesh and blood person sitting across from you?
Don’t get me wrong, I love technology as much as the next person. As a parent, I love the accessibility it gives me to my kids and the small peek into their lives it allows me. It also scares the hell out of me.
Kids these days ARE missing out. They are missing out on pulling a 20 foot phone cord into your room to talk on the phone for 3-4 hours. They send a text instead. They are missing out on sleepovers where your night centered around the excitement of seeing the new music video on MTV and countless calls to the radio station to request your favorite song. They have YouTube and iTunes for that. They are missing evenings of kick the can and capture the flag. They are pinning on Pinterest and tweeting on Twitter instead. As a society we are missing out as well. We are missing the art of real conversation and the skill of being a good listener. We are missing the ability to write a letter or even a paragraph using correct grammar and appropriate punctuation. We are missing patience because we expect instant results and gratification for everything we do in life. We are missing quiet and peaceful moments because we are always “connected”. We are missing our privacy because everything we do can now be recorded, reported, or announced on some kind of social media.
Being a teenager has always been hard. I believe being a teenager in today’s world is infinitely harder. We were all left out at one time or another as a kid, but at least we didn’t have to see pictures of all the fun our friends had in our absence. We all had break-ups and heart breaks, but we didn’t have to witness the new relationship our ex is having unfold through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We all felt depressed at one time or another without the constant comparison of our lives to the status updates our “perfect” friends share about their “perfect” lives. Learning how to drive and navigate a loud radio and even louder friends was scary enough without throwing cell phones into the mix. We did stupid stuff teenagers do and the only witness was the friend that was with us. Now someone secretly records your stupid mistake and its got a thousand hits on YouTube before you even wake up in the morning. Pictures can be sent that can never, ever be retrieved and deleted and words can be said behind a computer screen that can never be taken back. That’s a lot of pressure.
I’m making a commitment to “disconnect” a bit. And I won’t lie, the thought brings me some anxiety. I’m stepping away from my new iPhone and I’m going to try and remember what I did before I had one. So if I don’t answer your call right away, return that text, or miss an important announcement on Facebook, it’s not personal. I’m trying to rid myself of FOMO. Who’s in?