It’s hot again and as Friday winds down I am typing up this one from my apartment in Beijing, China. Luckily the air isn’t that polluted and I can open up all of the windows to get a little cross breeze going. So, in my gym shorts and with a half cup of ice coffee I sit down ready to open my heart to the world.
If you are visiting my site today because you read my recent flash fiction post on the Anthill, well, thank you! A lot of work went into that piece and I am more or less happy with how it came out. Although it was originally a bit more tongue and cheek, I think the edits did in the end make it better. If you haven’t check it out, then here is a link for you.
Now that all the PR stuff is out of the way I want to get around to a topic that has been on my mind as of late. Namely, FOMO (fear of missing out). This is something that writers and professionals alike need to think about because it is seriously wearing down our attention span. I am betting that I am not the only one who suffers from FOMO.
For those who don’t know, FOMO refers to constantly checking social media because of the feeling that something is happening which we aren’t privy to. This has always existed (think of the friend who comes out on a Friday night- even though he has a fever of 102 degrees), but now with the advent of technology it has been seriously amplified.
We get FOMO because of all these messaging services and social media accounts. The internet is incredibly interesting and there always seems to be more and more ways to access it. But it’s important to remember that these physical devices and their connection to the internet can be a potential black hole of procrastination.
Of course, it’s also very important to stay connected and interact with the world. So the question arises… how do we manage it?
One idea is to set up a time during the day which you commit to not being on social networks. You could, for example, disable all social accounts until after five pm when you leave work. This could be done with an adblocker or “good ol’ self control”. (Sidenote- I don’t think “good ol’ self-control” is actually effective as we might think. So, yeah, maybe adblocker is best).
Another way could be to cut down on our accounts. That means deleting all the useless accounts that we have and ultimately not signing up for the new ones in the first place. This is a hassle in the beginning, but there is also a strength in learning how to say no.
The reason I bring this up today is that I have noticed how much FOMO cuts into the quality of my own work. This is to say that I do my best work when I have no distractions and can focus from 2-3 hours uninterrupted on a project.
If you are reading this post and saying “Ah, jeez Will I am an excellent multitasker” well, I’m sorry but you are not. Research has shown that multitasking really just means switching our attention from one thing to another, and therefore reducing our overall span of attention on one particular thing.
But I digress.
I hope that I was able to bring up some awareness about the importance of managing your own attention span in relation to social media as well as the internet. Because while I mainly discussed interacting with people on social networks here, this also applies to just surfing the web in general.
I will go out on a limb here and say that I really haven’t learned that many useful things from just surfing the web aimlessly. Normally, the most useful bits of information come from conversations with other people, lectures, and books. The web is certainly an awesome tool, but you need to make sure that you are using it, and not the other way around.