Do you have FOBO: Fear Of Being Online?

By Siew Ching

Are you afraid of being offline in today’s highly connected world?

Imagine a day where you’re not connected to the internet. You have no access to breaking news. You can’t access your social media feeds. Emails – work and personal – aren’t coming in at all and WhatsApp has completely stopped working.

How does that make you feel? Liberated? Great! With a lot of trepidation? You’ll want to read on.

Because we are so used to being online, many of us feel lost when we suddenly find ourselves offline. Or maybe you can’t seem to stop being connected, even for five minutes. Are you guilty of scrolling through Instagram while in traffic (you know, it’s just a short wait)? Or perhaps you’re constantly checking your work emails when you’re supposed to be on holiday (God forbid you miss an important email – even though everyone knows you’re on vacay!)

In today’s highly connected world, it can feel impossible to take a break by being offline – whether it is five minutes, five hours, or five days. There’s some feeling of guilt associated with it – that’s why even when you tell your colleagues you plan to do nothing but sun, sea, sand, you’re likely to add that caveat that you’re still reachable if it’s urgent!

So why this fear of being offline (FOBO)? Why this “just in case something comes in or something happens”, that you need to constantly be online? We have the modern world to blame for it, where our lives are increasingly dependent on the Internet – shopping, banking, communicating, scrolling. When we’re not busy working on our laptop, we’re glued to our smartphones. When we’re done with IG, we move on to TikTok.

Connectivity has become our lives, relying on it to keep us up to date on our personal lives and work. And when that is suddenly taken away from us, even for just a while, many of us can experience emotional distress! Just look at the amount of messages or tweets asking if Instagram is down!

How do you know you have FOBO? Here are some clear telltale signs:

  • You are one of those with that status update above
  • You take a charging cable with you everywhere you go (no way will you be caught with no batt!)
  • The first thing you ask the wait staff at a café is the WiFi password
  • You book a hotel based on whether it has free WiFi or not
  • You literally get annoyed and distressed when you don’t have Internet access!

And here’s how you can overcome FOBO:

#1 Set healthy boundaries – and stick to them Make it a point not to scroll your phone while out with friends and family (how rude if you’re checking out Reels when mum’s trying to ask about your day at work!). Log out of your work email after hours. Make it a point not to look at your phone just before bed (or you risk scrolling endlessly way past your bedtime!). Oh and that one thing we’re all guilty about – looking at our phones will eat. Make a conscious effort to stop this and to have conversations at the table instead (if you’re with others) or read a book (if you’re alone).

#2 Cut down the hours you spend on your smartphone Many smartphones have a tracker on your online usage. Use this as a guide – if it’s increasing, then it's a sign you need to cut back. You can start by restricting your phone use from 10pm to 7am.

#3 Do more “offline” things! Read a book. Exercise daily. Bake, cook, create. All these things don’t involve you being online constantly checking on your social media. Instead, they require you to put your phone away and be in the moment to truly enjoy these quiet times.

#4 Schedule offline times for JOBO! (joy of being offline) Learn to integrate short offline breaks into your daily routine (remember that eating time? You can do it then!). Consciously avoid looking at your phone from 10pm onwards. Do longer periods of the weekends or during vacations. Spend that offline time doing things that invigorate you so you’ll eventually feel like you don’t need to be online to truly enjoy life!

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