At the end of 2014, I wrote an article for Conscious Divas called Being Still: It’s Not What You Might Think, and in it I talked about a phenomenon called JOMO (the joy of missing out.) It’s a concept that has become paramount in my own life, and dare I say, I can see its need all around me. In our anxiety-laden world where children have to go through digital detox programs (yes, it’s true – they have these in Japan) and adults play online games while their children are mastering the backstroke several feet away, I think we need to look at our internet use a little more closely. Vancouver-born author, Christina Crook, has done exactly this through extensive research and a 31 day digital fast. She presents mind-blowing information and reminds us that what we think is normal now actually goes against what human beings are, and what we are made for, in her conversationally-written book The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World.
Before I begin telling you how this book has awakened me, let’s talk about the obvious. Hello! I’m reaching out to you online! This is where (the majority of) you and I connect. I’m a blogger and I use social media to share my messages. I also do the same for my clients and their messages. On a personal level, I’ve had a Facebook account since 2007 and couldn’t even begin to tell you how many articles, statuses and digital meals I have consumed since then. I’ve checked my email/Twitter/Facebook while breastfeeding, waiting in line, making dinner, sitting in the living room with my kids, brushing my teeth, lying in bed, eating breakfast/lunch/dinner, waiting for the kids to come out of their schools, on walks, on drives… I actually can’t think of an activity that I’ve done without using my smartphone at some point. Oh, except sex. I have never had sex while using my smartphone. Before you say, Well duh…let me hit you on the head with the fact that 1 in 5 young adults, aged 18-34, admits to texting while having sex. Not only do I not want to know how that is physically possible, I am saddened by the fact that our most intimate moments have been intruded on in this way. But, if you think the sex thing is crazy, remember a time when we would have thought it rude, or at least strange, for someone to start talking to someone else while in the middle of a conversation with us? Do we not think that anymore? I actually hope that all of you are flabberghasted by the facts that Christina presents in her book, because that means that we collectively still value human connections – including to the Self.
I’ve talked about how I feel sorry for my children who often take a backseat to my internet usage, and who are growing up with adults who have their faces in their phones. I know what I need to do on the internet, and I know what I don’t need to do on the internet, and as someone who works online, things get a little blurry. I could be checking my Twitter feed with the intent to engage with followers for an X number of minutes but then end up reading articles I will never actually remember or learn from because before my brain has digested and incorporated the information, I’m reading something else. Sometimes, I can’t even pretend that the information I am taking in is in any way useful. But darn it if it doesn’t have a link to another article that I really don’t need to read (but do anyway). And on it goes. Now half an hour has gone by, dinner is delayed, the kids are cranky, I am annoyed because I’ve just been yanked out of a zone-out by the fact that we’re all hungry and now I need to rush the dinner process. An otherwise creative and ‘alive’ moment, putting a meal together with fresh ingredients has now become another after-thought to my digital consumption. In fact, anything I need to do can seem more like a chore that drags on when I am distracted by my phone. Folding a load of laundry takes so much longer when I’m scrolling through my newsfeeds at the same time. Christina talks about how we don’t know how to be alone with ourselves anymore; I loved that part of her work.
Christina’s book reminded me of how simple and full of living life actually should be. She’s not spewing anti-technology propaganda; there is scientific research behind what is going on in our nervous systems when we’re digitally doped up, and how this affects our happiness levels. I love how she has chapter exercises (just a quick fill in the blank, or make a short list type questions) that really encourage one to examine the personal relationship to technology. The exercises helped me open up more time for the things that matter to me and empowered me with the reminder that I am the one who manages my technology (not the other way around). Implementing what I self-discovered has already given me the sense of relief that Christina asserts comes with being less connected.
Even if you don’t think this applies to you – maybe you’ve got your technology under control, or you don’t think it’s affecting you adversely, give this book a shot. If anything makes you feel uneasy, or defensive, or shocks you, use those feelings as a tool to help you make decisions. There’s no judgement; just a reminder to check in and make sure you are where you want to be.
There’s no denying the internet is full of wonders and delights, and can be used to share messages efficiently. And I know there are careers that exist almost entirely online. But I will just say this: if you read this book and think about your connection to technology, re-visit what’s important to you, define what you value, really know what you want to make time for in your life…you will not be sorry.
Remember how I made a list for 2015 of things I want more of and things I want less of? Oddly enough, NONE of the things I wanted more of had anything to do with technology. In fact, I can easily have what I want more of…if I set my digital boundaries.
What can you stand to gain?
Disclosure: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions and thoughts are my own.