The Japanese have a word for “death from overwork.” It’s Karōshi. Their country actually keeps track of Karōshi statistics, due to rash of sudden deaths that have been blamed on work-related stress and exhaustion. Young Japanese professionals are literally dropping dead from pushing themselves too far.
But, this phenomenon is not unique to Japan. It’s a global phenomenon even though we don’t have a word for it. It’s not just the physical act of working that is causing us stress, but the constant connectivity and the pressure to be everywhere at once. Why seek entertainment on one screen when we can have three going at once? Why stay in touch with a small group of close-knit friends and family, when we can grow our ever-mushrooming social graph with more and more friends and colleagues from past, present and future lives?
I was born on the tail end of Generation X – the so-called “slacker generation” – and on the cusp of Generation Y “the Millennial generation.” Gen Y is an ambitious and energetic group that barrels through life with gusto; multi-tasking and overachieving at an exhausting pace.
As a digital marketing professional, the constant – and sometimes crushing – stream of information is both overwhelming and exciting. I have more than 10 social media platforms and spend an estimated 12 hours per day using backlit screens for both personal and professional reasons. The screens stream a fire hose of digital and marketing industry news updates, Tweets, Facebook updates, Google Plus pings, Instagram photos, email notifications from three accounts, push alerts from apps, and friend and follower requests. Every one is an opportunity to be gained or missed. After all, isn’t this the era of Fear Of Missing Out?
Managing each social network furthers my stake in the social sphere. For egotistical reasons, I want to be part of the conversation at all times. I want to know the latest social media news before anyone else. I want people to Like, Share and Retweet my posts. I want to be at that Tweetup and Instagram that sh*t.
At a recent BCAMA breakfast panel on 2013 marketing trends, there was a lot of talk about going private in public and embracing the beauty of taking a break from it all. Kit Kat is giving their customers a literal break by having a wi-fi FREE zone to encourage personal connection and reflection. People are going on connection-free vacations just to be able to tune out from the golden handcuffs that smartphones have given us.
Last year, blogger Anil Dash wrote about the Joy of Missing Out (JOMO). He talked about the response to the FOMO phenomenon, mostly caused by viewing the carefully curated social media feeds of others. He’d felt that way too. Until he had a son. Then, everything changed. He became content to simply enjoy where he was and not worry so much about what he was missing out on. And thus, his JOMO was born.
I’ve noticed this movement amplify over the last year or so as people – even online nerds like myself – tire from the stormy seas of the online world. More and more, people are choosing to take a breather from digital and just be human – at least every once in a while.
After taking time to reflect upon what’s really important to me, I believe it’s time to get on board with JOMO and throw FOMO out the window. It’s time to breathe life into the things that actually breathe (in the words of my friend, Lisa Richardson). To close down the screens every once in a while and stop viewing the curated digital lives of others with envious eyes. This is a difficult task for the voyeur within us all, but it can be done.
This is not to say that we should all live in a cave and abandon our digital lives for good. After all, we need to make a living, right? Besides, the Internet is just so darn much fun sometimes!
But, what I am proposing that we simply give ourselves room to self reflect and listen to that internal gauge that tells us:
“Hey, it’s time to tune out for awhile. Go play outside instead. Or read a REAL book. Or chill with your dog. But whatever you do, don’t feel bad about missing out on a few things. Embrace the fact that you can’t everywhere at once.”