The joy of missing out: How to stop your social media addiction

Woman on beach with cocktail, detosing off digital media. HUMANITIES
There’s increasing recognition about the benefits of limiting the time you spend on digital devices.

> Tips to disconnect

It’s official: We’re getting better at caring less about what others post on their social media feeds — or at least we’re trying, according to Adelaide academics.

UniSA lecturer Jennifer Stokes was interviewed about JOMO on the Nine Network’s Weekend Today.UniSA lecturer Jennifer Stokes was interviewed about JOMO on the Nine Network’s Weekend Today.

UniSA digital literacies lecturer Jennifer Stokes says there’s growing local interest in the global phenomenon JOMO (joy of missing out).

“JOMO is a pushback against FOMO (fear of missing out) … people are stepping back and deliberately disconnecting from their devices, they are saying ‘I don’t care what people are doing, I am happy with my own life … I can go out into nature and don’t need to document and share it’,” Stokes says.

“We’ve seen a lot of research around FOMO and its link to increased levels of anxiety and depression as people constantly try to compare their lives to others on social media … (the issue is) they’re not looking at realistic depictions of other people’s lives but rather the best bits, a highlights reel, if you like.”

As part of her course work at UniSA College, Stokes provides students with strategies to help them manage life in an age of constant connectivity, including simple things such as swapping a smartphone alarm with an actual bedside clock, leaving their mobile in another room.

It is something Gabrielle Kelly, who heads up SAHMRI’s Wellbeing and Resilience Centre, sees value in.

“It’s true to say everyone we talk to — and we talk to thousands of South Australians about wellbeing — share their stresses and the strains of being subject to global flows of information arriving on their desktop and telephone,” she said.

“(Many people) are feeling overwhelmed and stressed and unable to cope with all these inputs coming in, (so) are deciding to limit digital media as a way of building life satisfaction. There is growing evidence people are reassessing their digital use, particularly around social media and how much time they want to invest in (it).”

The Advertiser feature article, 21 August 2018.The Advertiser feature article, 21 August 2018.

In the workplace too, there are moves to disconnect.

“We are seeing some really progressive moves in this space — in France, a ‘right to disconnect’ law means workers don’t check work emails outside certain hours,” Stokes says.

“It would be positive to see a similar sort of thing here … hopefully, over time, we’ll see a shift where people will be able to say ‘this is my time when I am going to be disconnected and when I come back, I’ll be refreshed.’”

UniSA lecturer Dr Silvia Pignata, whose background is in work and organisational psychology, agrees. She wants organisations to come up with policies and procedures that limit the amount of time people spend on digital devices for work, outside office hours.

“There is a recognised important need for people to be able to detach and switch off from work so they are not constantly ruminating about an issue at work or thinking about what they need to do tomorrow — or didn’t get done today,” she said.

“There shouldn’t be an expectation employees will always be available … it is important for managers and supervisors to really clarify their expectations regarding how much employees should be using their devices in non-work hours.” Dr Pignata said it was counter-productive to be “switched on” for work 24/7.

“It’s really important for people psychologically to be able to switch off from work — to exercise, spend time with their family and just do whatever they want — to be able to recover from the stresses during the week and feel a lot more able to face the next work day,” she said.

“Around the world work stress is increasing … it is the pressure of internationalisation, new technologies, competition, mergers — and trying to do more with less staff.

“People are feeling insecure in their work so they are feeling pressured to answer those emails, check their phones … that level of job insecurity is growing in so many organisations across the globe.”

Dr Pignata is hoping, along with colleagues interstate, to look more closely at what is now happening in workplaces across Australia — according to a recent survey by professional-networking site LinkedIn, 70 per cent of employees say they never disconnect from work, even on holidays.

“We are hoping to look at what companies are doing and see if it is effective, from there we can start building up some strategies, perhaps even interventions, and processes for workplaces to use,” she said.

Technology giants also appear to be recognising the growing trend to temporarily “turn off” with companies such as Google and Apple adding features to help users track their digital use.

While emerging technologies, including new phone-call only mobiles designed to be used “as little as possible”, and social media movements such as “Screen free Saturdays” and “Quit Facebook Day” are also increasingly popular.

This article was originally published by The Advertiser and has been reproduced with permission.

Tips to disconnect

By Jennifer Stokes, UniSA lecturer in digital literacies

  • Keep your phone out of your bedroom at night to avoid the temptation of checking emails/messages.

  • Get an old-fashioned alarm clock for your bedside table, to avoid having to use the one on your smartphone.

  • Turn off notifications — rather than having the technology dragging you in all the time, make it your choice when you connect with the technology.

  • Focus on creativity. If you don’t disconnect it becomes very hard to come up with original concepts … you’ll find some of your best ideas will come when doing something repetitive and physical, such as going to the gym or a walk, even housework.