Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

[This originally ran as a column in The Guardian.]

Tweet this. Share that. Like us. Big data. Content marketing. Information overload.

You’ve likely seen every one of these phrases. Indeed, it’s like a daily barrage of some technological assembly line, as we mindlessly pick up our devices - driven more by instinct than need - thumb through the screens and tap out replies, comments or digital grunts in response to the digital visual stimuli put before us.

Our Pavlovian behaviour has become so pervasive that there is a pscyhological term for the fear of being without one’s smartphone: nomophobia. It’s not without basis, as 61% of 27-34 year olds report that they are afraid of missing something if they don’t check their mobile devices frequently - otherwise known as “fear of missing out,” or FOMO.

As brands and platforms try to determine just what it is that consumers want from them, we’re faced with more choices and barraged with more messages than ever before. Facebook is hovering around 1.2 billion users globally; Twitter and Google+ report 500 million each; LinkedIn nearly 250 million. When will it plateau? And does it even matter at this point?

And with recent questions over how private our data actually are, as well as how much we’re willing to give up voluntarily and the friend-adding binges we treated ourselves to in the ever-expanding social networks, it’s not too difficult to imagine that some people may back off a bit on their digital lives.

The flip side of FOMO is JOMO, or “joy of missing out.” We’ve covered this and 9 other trends in Ford’s 2014 Trend Report. After having experienced a period during the holiday season of unplugging quite a bit each day, I came to the personal realization that this dedication to a mobile device - as useful as it is - has its limits. Taking the time to soak in my physical surroundings, enjoy the atmosphere of the holidays - this was done without the aid of an app.

I don’t mean to imply that we should simply drop our devices entirely; they certainly have utility. But the degree to which we depend on them means that we shield ourselves from human interaction, miss out on nature’s beauty, or even forget specific details of events. And that’s not the most enjoyable way to experience life.

As humans, we want to share our experiences, connect with others and make a difference in the world. And much of that is done through online interaction and visual storytelling. The real question is: how much digital flotsam and jetsam is too much?

Again, I turn to the ancients to guide our human nature: Cleobulus, the Greek philosopher from the 6th century B.C. put it best: “Moderation in all things.”

Image credit: major_clanger (Flickr)

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