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Did you manage to give sunburn the slip this summer? And now you’re back at work, will you be able to wave goodbye to FOMO as well?

Did you manage to give sunburn the slip this summer? And now you’re back at work, will you be able to wave goodbye to FOMO as well?

It’s that time of year again: you’ve just stashed your flip-flops away until next summer and have finished getting all the kids’ kit ready for school (not to mention their lunch money)… but how about you? Have you had your FOMO jab? FOMO – that’s the Fear of Missing Out on important information! If you’re already feeling a bit worried, anxious or even stressed out about the amount of information you have to handle in the coming weeks, this special is just for you!

It’s a personalized mental ecology session designed to stop you becoming a digital slave and to soothe your mind so you can make the most of life and your loved ones… in the real world rather than on social networks!

The root cause of FOMO can be found in the deeply social behavior of homo sapiens, meaning that few of us can escape the tempting promise of friendly, constructive relations!

Social networks, email and other digital communication systems offer an inexhaustible – and overly attractive – supply of stimulation, exchange and social interaction.

All this means that what was supposed to be a valuable resource and a pleasurable pursuit has the potential to turn into a major cause of stress, hassle and upset!

And that’s partly because the sheer amount of information that needs to be processed on social networks is monstrous. It vastly exceeds the brain’s management capacity, which in itself generates fatigue and frustration. But it’s mostly because access to this content that is dynamic and fun to look at is (too) easy and ubiquitous, making for the headiest of mixes!

In fact, it’s so intoxicating that, if the flow of information is unexpectedly interrupted, it can turn into a source of anxiety and frustration for some people – which feels all the more unbearable because they don’t understand the reasons for the disconnection. In these circumstances, the need to feel part of a group or community is no longer satisfied. FOMO sufferers often try to increase the flow of information to avoid the risk of becoming disconnected and socially excluded. They check their networks compulsively, which is a source of immediate pleasure!

Unfortunately, this quick fix soon becomes highly invasive. It eats up a huge amount of time and mental resources, gleefully encroaching on real life and leaving FOMO sufferers particularly unaware of what is going on around them.

What’s more, it’s an insidious mechanism: it takes hold gradually by pandering to the brain’s immediate reward circuit (the frantic search for “likes”, for example) and creating a form of addiction that is subsequently extremely difficult to ditch.

Now, it goes without saying that not all digital technology usage is pathological. But even if you only use it in small doses, it may be helpful to learn to how to control your behavior more effectively regarding digital flows in general and social networks in particular.

Here, in random order, are 9 basic rules to help you clean up your act!

1. Reduce the dose: start, for instance, by removing notifications about the status of your messages. In other words, configure your apps so they don’t receive any feedback, likes or other comments about what you’ve published online. It is a persuasive strategy: “less temptation = less connection”!

2. Block access: make it more difficult – or even totally impossible! – to disseminate and receive information. It’s a pretty drastic approach, but it has the advantage of being effective: “no connection = no connection!”. Of course, 100% disconnection is the right option in cases of extreme addiction; but (even short) periods of temporary disconnection are particularly relaxing for the brain, especially when you’re starting to feel the effects of mental fatigue!

In the same vein, some applications can be set up to “automatically” lock you out if you use them over a prolonged period. This works as a small reminder, a kind of digital warning which may provide just the impetus you need to get back on the straight and narrow path of more sensible usage!

3. Choose better tools… Let’s be realistic here: there are too many apps for us to be able to use them all and especially to use them all properly. So, be sensible and don’t systematically give in to the siren call of the latest gadget on the market and gorge yourself on downloads. Just ask yourself the questions: What do you really need to be able to communicate? What really makes you happy in terms of your contacts and information? And then eliminate what you don’t use any more. Here’s a good rule to introduce: “Downloading a new app = removing an old one”.

4. Select better contacts… Being a little bit selective won’t do any harm at all! Take a look at your own, and you contacts’, practices. Who is broadcasting what information and why? What is the intrinsic interest of the posts and other information put on line? What positive or negative emotions are generally conveyed, and what kind of mood does this information put you in? If, in this context, some of your contacts don’t contribute anything that’s very constructive, why keep them? And what are your stress levels like when you take part in debates and discussions? Is passivity tolerated or are you under pressure to interact and produce content? Here’s a straight-up rule: “publish less = less traffic”.

5. Choose times to log on and off. This, in fact, is the basic rule. It’s up to you to decide when you do what! Our brains remain under constant pressure when we lose control, and the danger of mental overload is greatly increased! This might happen due to environmental demands (your boss can’t stand you taking more than 12.5 seconds to reply to him or her) or because you’ve succumbed to bad habits (you automatically get your smartphone out of your pocket when you’ve got a couple of spare minutes!). And the same thing applies in the evenings and on weekends, when work-related information (which isn’t necessarily suited to these moments) may well ruin your life without you being able to react properly to solve the problems. In short, it’s much better to refrain altogether!

6. Divert your attention elsewhere… carry on doing unconnected activities: it’s difficult to answer your messages if you’re playing basketball, for example! See the video: Do not text and play basketball 🙂

7. Go green! Try and become fully conscious of the fact that our digital usage is not neutral in terms of global warming. The traffic generated, which is linked to storing a large part of our data, requires sizeable cooling capacities, meaning that the ecological impact of our small (and often insignificant) discussions is far from trifling!

8. Set a good example… since we began this missive with an allusion to the start of the new school year, ask yourself this question: What message are we giving our children when we say we have to look at our emails for a couple of minutes when we’re at home in the evening? Let’s be honest, those two minutes never ending up only taking two minutes! How can we have nice relationships with our loved ones and help them manage their digital use if we let our screens systematically hog all our time?

9. Above all, try to understand what’s actually going on… and let’s not be fooled, there is an economic model that encourages us very strongly to stay connected. But if we can become more aware of the mechanisms involved and, it follows, control our behavior better vis-à-vis social networks and other digital uses, then we’re taking a big step towards recovering our freedom. And the good news is that’s exactly what you’ve just done by reading this article!

In any case, I hope this article will have opened your eyes (or validated your practices if you’re already being sensible). And don’t forget that you can also use your smartphone to reconnect to yourself: try out My Mental Energy Pro’s micro-breaks, which will help you regenerate all your neurons effectively! You can also take stock of your digital habits and mental ecology by taking our mental ecology self-diagnosis.

Gaël Allain

Scientific director of My Mental Energy Pro®

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