I’m teaching summer school in the dead of a desert summer. As in, if you linger outside at midday, you could die. Or at least fry your skin or eggs. There’s a thing about expat life, that if you aren’t on the first plane out, you feel like you’re being tested. Like someone a in post-apocalyptic show but there’s no Rick Grimes to keep you safe. Okay, so, we don’t have to deal with zombies. (Though the vacant looks you’ll get from students may be a sign of things to come). I curb the sense of being abandoned by enjoying the emptying roads, even as I minimize holiday photos taken in Asia.
Facebook, Stephe Marche, tells us, is amplifying our sense of loneliness. And this isn’t the first type of technology we have misused. First it was telephones: if you needed sugar, you wouldn’t have to knock on a series of doors anymore. Then it was cars: Cars took us away from dense urban areas into the suburbs with massive lawns and stretches of silence. We ushered in our descent into isolation as we made our lives easier.
Are humans smart enough to manage the technology we invent? When you read Marche’s trajectory of western development, you might think that we are our own worst enemy.
It doesn’t have to be this way though. Here are 5 ways to control the FOMO (fear of missing out).
1. When you’re with someone, be with them. The whole ‘love the one you’re with’ is good advice because everyone from Gretchen Rubin, happiness expert, to John Cacioppo, loneliness expert, says relationships are key to happiness. This is not the send-me-valentines kind of connection but those who listen to you, make eye contact while you’re telling a story, can come help jump a battery. Cultivate these and you won’t mind who is posting what.
2. Disconnect everyday. Yes, it’s great to go on that 10 day vacation to Greece and resist the urge to post selfies from the beach every second. But if you can do something other than scroll through status updates while in line at the bank, or idling at the red light, you’ll be happier.
3. Don’t believe everything you see. We have become experts at “self-curation” Marche warns. No one ever has a bad day on Facebook. This is why I celebrated my friend’s blog, the one that talks about how hard it is to struggle through cancer as a mother of three small children. If you really want to disrupt the picture perfect simulacra, post something that went wrong. A few days ago, I posted a coffee cup an office cleaner broke and the ensuing notes we exchanged.
4. Phone a friend. When was the last time you called someone to catch up instead of striking up a conversation via WhatsApp or text? Last Saturday I called a friend and she said “What’s up?”
Me: “Nothing, calling to say hi.”
A few seconds later, she asked me again, what was going on.
Me: “I was checking in.”
We stuttered through the rest of the conversation from lack of practice.
What are the other strategies you use to be a sensibly connected person in an over-networked world?