An article in Trail Runner last week by David Roche, entitled “Just Say No to FOMO [Fear of Missing Out]” really got me thinking (again/more) about my own tendencies and the double-edged sword that is the digital world.
Roche points out that it is more than just a digital/social media problem; “it’s more of a problem of human nature.” Much of what Roche is describing is the risk of injury one can create by succumbing to the allure of FOMO by doing too much and not taking sufficient rest periods. The incessant and insidious taunts from the myriad Instagram and Facebook superstar selfies can push the runner who cognitively knows she needs that break out the door in pursuit of…something more.
But it’s not just the hard-core runner who is at risk. What about the occasional runner or harder-core wannabe or the individual starting out trying to make a change in her life? When we’re feeling mentally strong and capable of pursuing our goals, social media can be a source of inspiration (“I could do that!”), a source of information (“Ooooh…I would love to do that race…”) and a source of connection (“Hi, Jane. Want to do this race with me?”).
But when we’re not strong, when we’ve lapsed, when we’re feeling down, vulnerable or insecure, the incessant barrage of reminders can threaten to swamp us. Click on that Facebook or Instagram button at our peril, only to be convinced that others are doing more and better than we are, that others have more friends and opportunities than we do, that others are stronger, fitter, faster than we are.
Roche argues that “self-acceptance probably isn’t found on a summit”, at least it’s not likely found on a summit that you felt compelled to reach because of what someone else posted. I am absolutely convinced of the mental as well as physical health benefits of being out on the trails, whether it’s running, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing or not much at all. But we need to be out there for the right reasons, the ones coming from inside us, not the ones coming from inside our phones.
Recognizing the unhealthy tendencies of being too plugged in, especially to social media, Jeremey Freed suggests countering FOMO with JOMO, or the Joy of Missing Out. According to Freed,
“The Joy of Missing Out is really the joy of choosing what you don’t get to miss out on. Instead of constantly worrying about all of the fun, interesting things I’m not part of, I’m now more free to decide what I do want to do…By taking a stand against my unlived life and some of the things that remind me of it, I can now focus on the life that I have, which despite not being perfect, is actually pretty great.”
With Take a Hike Day just around the corner (June 1), I can’t think of a better time to unplug, not only to celebrate and truly enjoy what nature has to offer, but also to reflect on our tendencies to ignore the little FOMO voices in our heads. If being plugged in is not bringing us joy and genuine connectedness, then I say, swipe left and follow the trail markers for more JOMO.