Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

What Will You Miss Out On?

Checking a phone

A lot of years ago, Linda Stone wrote a very interesting column at the O’Reilly website. That column focused on how pervasive mobile phones had become, and how people took their phones everywhere with them.

One passage from that column still sticks with me to this day:

Last week, a high school sophomore told me that she brings her phone into the shower with her — in a Ziploc bag. She didn’t want to miss an incoming text message. When I asked her if, in her sleep, she had missed life-altering messages, she looked at me blankly.

That anecdote is funny, but it’s not uncommon. I know more than a few people who have their smartphones powered up 24/7. Every few minutes, one eye drifts to a Twitter or Facebook notification, to their RSS reader, to an incoming text, or to an instant message. Their phones are on their bedside tables when they turn in at night, waiting for that life-altering alert or message. The one that neve comes/

Why are some people almost fused to their devices? A big reason is that they don’t want to miss something. No one has been able to tell me what that something is, though. They’re vague and evasive, but insistent. In the end, it’s a distraction from what’s truly important in their lives. Nothing more.

Fear of missing out probably grips more people than I realize. You might be afflicted with it, too. There’s no reason to be.

If you do feel that fear, ask yourself:

  • What will I miss?
  • Is it that important in the wider scheme of my life?
  • How does this distraction interfere with what I want and need to do?
  • What will happen if I do miss something?

The last question is key. The world won’t end if you don’t read that tweet or Facebook post. You won’t become a pariah or lose your livelihood if you don’t reply to that email 10 seconds after it hits your inbox. The quality of your life won’t suffer if you ignore that notification or text message.

Don’t think about what you’re going to miss. Most, if not all of it, is of little or not benefit to you. It’s static. It’s chaff. It’s a distraction.

Think instead about what you’ll gain by ignoring all that static and chaff. You’ll be able to better focus on your work. You’ll have a chance to relax. You’ll have time to spend with family and friends. You’ll have space to read or reflect.

So, turn off your phone. Disable any notifications. Check to urge to check. You’ll be better off for it.

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