THE BLOG

FOMO: Fear of Missing Out(look)

14/06/2013 14:45 BST | Updated 14/08/2013 10:12 BST

My name is Monica and I am an Outlook addict. It has been 60 hours since my last login. I haven't taken on this abstinence in the desire for greater work-life balance, or to improve my wellbeing, I've done it because I have to. I am on holiday, sailing along the Lycian coast, and withdrawal is setting in.

I am unplugged and struggling.

At every port, I check my Wi-Fi connection. On rare occasion there appears to be one, and I feel that familiar surge of adrenaline. CONNECTIVITY!! But alas, it is probably nothing more than soup cans strung together with dental floss, as the connection is lost as quickly as it was made. (I am sure there is a metaphor for life in there somewhere.) Perhaps I should take comfort in knowing that my craving isn't so grave as to be willing to shell out for a 3G fix. (£3 per MB... that will cost me a week's wages to download the board report!)

And don't get me started on the power cords. I have to choose daily whether I want to divert the electricity from the boat battery to power the fridge or my kit. To choose between a cold beer or a charged iPad? A horrific modern Faustian dilemma if ever there was one.

How did I get myself into this self-imposed nightmare? Why do I feel the need to plugin even as my out of office reply is so happily ticking along as my proxy? Why, if I am such a vocal proponent of work-life balance, do I feel so out of balance?

I've imagined four reasons:

I need to

We all know this one. We are needed at work. Really needed. This isn't an addiction, rather an intense sense of responsibility. Everything will screech to a halt if we stop replying every 30 minutes. Never mind that the world of business somehow functioned before email. That there was a time when people had conversations by post. (There must have been a lot less replying-to-all then.) If I am not immediate in my response, the whole house of cards will fall. My team, my clients, my business all struggle without my input and will breathe a collective sigh of relief upon my return. (OK, the last bit might have been a bit over the top.)

Because I can (aka I can stop any time I want to)

Perhaps this isn't a proper addiction. It's just habitual. Pay no bother to the studies that say the sound of an email alert from your smartphone triggers that same serotonin response as a hit of opium. It's just because I can that I want to (and I REALLY want to).

Ego

It's all in my head. Who am I to think that the world will stop spinning on its axis because I take a holiday (see the first reason). I'm not that important. In fact, things probably run better without me. People breathed the sigh of relief when I left. I'm actually not needed, I just think I am. How's that for a reality check?

FOMO

I just don't want to miss out. The water-cooler moments. The client drama. The reply to all. The cakes in the kitchen for someone's birthday. (Cakes? What flavour? Didn't they know I was away??) I actually love being a part of it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. And being this disconnected makes me feel, well, a bit disconnected.

In the end, I think it's probably a combination of all of the above. And if I wasn't disconnected I would quote studies that say too many people don't unplug on their holiday. Or that smartphone addiction is the cause of more marital conflict than adultery. Or that 32% of boating accidents are caused by attempting to find a Wi-Fi signal atop the mast. But I can't because I am off the grid.

So here are some stats I've made up for you.

100% of people reading this saw some small part of them reflected. 39% of people have stood in an awkward position to find a better Wi-Fi signal. 82% will feel superior because they will pretend they can unplug more successfully than me. (67% of that 82% are full of malarkey.)

So how do we get the email monkey off our back? Is there an Outlook methadone? A twelve-step programme? I think there actually might be, but for me it probably isn't necessary.

Perhaps a version of the Serenity Prayer isn't a bad way to go:

Grant me the serenity to enjoy the times I don't need to respond to email,

The courage to respond to email only when I must,

And wisdom to know the difference.