Sitting across from my girlfriend at Starbucks, I had an overwhelming feeling that something was not quite right, a stirring deep within as if a mean girl were taunting, “I know something you don’t!”
As my friend discussed the latest about her family, I realized that I’d become vacant.
“What’s wrong with me?” I wondered, finding myself distracted.
Fidgeting in my seat, the answer suddenly came – my phone hadn’t rung or beeped with the sound of a text the entire time we were together.
“Excuse me,” I said, sipping my coffee. “I need to check my messages.”
Rummaging through the black hole I call my purse, I pushed aside gum wrappers, lipsticks, pens, glasses and finally my wallet, then went pale.
“Are you OK? You don’t look so good,” she said, noticing my discomfort.
While trying to mask my fear with a fake smile, I unexpectedly blurted, “I can’t find my phone.”
Sitting back with her cup to her lips, my friend began to giggle. “You obviously have a severe case of FOMO.”
“Fear of missing out. It’s actually a word that describes us voyeurs who incessantly stalk people on Facebook to find out what they’re up to, but then discover ourselves depressed because their lives look better than ours.”
“I don’t do that!”
“Maybe,” she said, “but right now you think people want you and you’re terrified you’ve missed something important.”
Wiping the sweat beading on my forehead, I took a deep breath to relieve the building anxiety. She was right. Ever since my cellphone became glued to my hip, as if it were a third leg, I panic when it’s not near.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “My focus should have been on you.”
Patting my hand, she consoled, “No worries, honey. I’m the same way.”
Going back to my office at Alain Pinel Realtors, I found my lifeline to the world sitting on my desk. Quickly grabbing it, I turned it on and instantly became horrified. Nobody wanted me. Nobody had called, texted or emailed. The entire world had left me alone for an hour and a half, and I didn’t take advantage of the time.
I think it’s safe to say technology has taken over our lives. Everywhere we go, people’s heads are down reading emails, looking at their Facebook and Twitter accounts, or shopping online. It’s as if aliens from another planet snatched our true selves and replaced us with zombie-like creatures with bent necks and hunched shoulders, electronic gizmos in hand.
And, sadly, it’s not just the adults. The younger generation is far worse. They never put them down, nor do they look you in the eye when having a conversation.
Realizing I’d become too consumed with being available at all times – not just for my clients, but for everyone – I decided a change was in order and vowed to leave the phone behind for at least an hour a day.
At first, it wasn’t easy. Itching to check in, my mind became anxiety-ridden. But once I made peace with its absence, a miraculous thing happened – I found myself to be more present.
Now, I shop with a clear intention of what I need to buy without dealing with a tweet. I hike with serenity because I’m not reading an email, and when I share time with friends and family, I’m all in.
That day taught me something very important – with a switch to my routine, the fear of missing out became the thrill of missing out. I become connected with what truly matters – the here and now. And there’s nothing better than that.