Fear of missing …what?

“It’s hard not to develop this 21st-century form of anxiety when one glance at your smartphone reveals a thousand awesome things your friends — and enemies — are doing.” — Martha Beck, “The Grass Ain’t Greener”

circusIts no secret that Ive carried on a love-hate relationship with social media for years.

Using LinkedIn as one example: I love how it connects us with colleagues and expands our career-networking potential. Using Facebook as another example: I hate how it tempts us to overplay our achievements or flaunt things that ought to be kept personal.

So far, Ive been Facebook-free for more than six weeks. The last time I suffered social-media overload, I deactivated my Facebook account for more than three months. In so doing, I discovered I’d suddenly acquired yards of extra free time — simply because I wasnt reading status updates on what dozens of “friends” had eaten for lunch, bagged at the grocery store, or watched on television the previous night.

At the same time, I’ll admit it feels weird (sometimes) to avoid being part of something that everyone else is doing en masse. Even my husband makes passing references – daily – to material hes read on Facebook.

It’s enough to stir up an infectious case of FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. Life coach Martha Beck explores the perils of FOMO in her current O Magazine column (June 2013). As Beck explains it, FOMO manages to convince you that everyone else has more fun, more sex, cooler friends, better meals, bigger jobs, smarter kids, and fancier vacations than you have — and is so much younger- or better-looking than you’d ever be. Of course, FOMO rides high and fast on the wheels of social media, in all forms.

“A powerful way to fight FOMO is to recognize that the fabulous life you think youre missing doesnt in fact exist,” writes Beck. “When you feel FOMO coming on, remind yourself that practically every image you see on practically any screen is likely misleading.”  To find out why, you absolutely must read the rest of Becks spot-on article. I promise, you’ll nod your head at every paragraph.

In the meantime, Im following Becks advice and living fully in the ordinary moment – without posting photos of what I ate for breakfast. Seriously, you haven’t missed much.

Boundaries

Good fences make good neighbors.” — Robert Frost

One of our neighbors is building a stone wall at the edge of his property.

Watching his progress, I’m reminded of my childhood road trips to historic New England. From the back seat of my dad’s Chevy Impala, I’d count miles and miles of curvy pastoral roads lined with rambling field stone walls.

Guarding cemeteries or defining farmland, those venerable stone borders conveyed a sense of authority — though some were barely tall enough to stop trespassers on a mission. Sections of the walls dated back to the American Revolution, when our young country was in the process of defending and defining its own boundaries.

Everyone needs boundaries. While most humans crave social connection, there are times when we all need to draw invisible lines between “us and them.” Healthy personal boundaries help protect our own space and identity. They remind others that we have a right to privacy; that we are not accessible to everyone at all times.

Women seem to have a tougher time setting limits and boundaries. Hard-wired to nurture and assist, we often answer the needs of others before our own, whether we’re caring for small children or elderly parents.

But our personal boundaries start to blur when we spend too much time meeting the needs and expectations of others. When this becomes a pattern, we must stop saying “yes” to every request for our time and attention.

Today, thanks to cell phones and the Internet, most of us are over-connected and readily available. While I consider myself a people person, I’m easily overwhelmed by the constant chatter and demands of social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and blogs — not to mention the never-ending stream of email to read and answer.

Sometimes, all it takes is a long, solo bike ride through the neighborhood to restore my equilibrium.  It also helps to declare “time out” from social media for a day or two.

Building a metaphorical fence around my time is the best way to restore my sanity when everything feels like “too much” to handle.  What about you? Do you find it hard to create or maintain your own boundaries? — Cindy La Ferle