Nomophobia & FOMO

On March 6, I began my digital detox and wanted to give my two week report and address the concepts of nomophobia and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I've been making a ton of observations about our relationship with our smartphones, 24x7 connectivity and the internet and will be touching on my thoughts.

Also, a big thank you for the fine folks at Punkt for sending my this white MP 01 to encourage my detox challenge.  More on this below.

 Punkt MP 01 Challenge

Nomophobia & FOMO

Nomophobia, along with FOMO, are words that were added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary last spring to label the withdraws people experience when they find themselves without their smartphones. Nomophobia is directly related to smartphones, while FOMO is a more generic and informal term. According to the dictionary:

NOMOPHOBIA: noun  no·mo·pho·bia \ˌnō-mə-ˈfō-bē-ə\ fear of being without access to a working cell phone
FOMO: noun \ˈfō-(ˌ)mō\  fear of missing out :  fear of not being included in something (such as an interesting or enjoyable activity) that others are experiencing

I can confirm that I have had bouts of both the above over the past two weeks, but am happy to report it's really subsiding. I think FOMO has been the larger of the two for me over the last 14 days - and that wasn't smartphone specific, but related to times I am unplugged from the internet all together - related to 4 specific areas: 1) Instagram/Twitter DMs, 2) Slack Conversations, 3) Breaking News and 4) Emails (see my 5 Ways I am Reducing Screen Time post).

Last weekend, when I did the 109 Hour Detox, I had the strongest FOMO reactions. What if someone wanted to ask me something important over social media or email? What if there was an awesome photography thread happening on Slack? What if there was a world event in the news that I was missing? Yes, I was actually worrying about these things, thinking about them while reading books or while going for walks. I was tempted on several occasions to pick up my cellphone or power on my computer to give it a quick check. But I held strong. I kept reminding myself, if there's an emergency, all my contacts have my phone number. 

This weekend, I was 100% off line for a shorter period (Friday at 4 pm until Monday at 5 am) but it was so much easier, due in part to "surviving" the previous weekend and having a dedicated dumbphone for the exercise. 

Checking Back In

Last Monday morning, when I got back online, I opened up several tabs before I headed into the office, desperate to see what I missed over the 109 hour weekend.  I had opened up Twitter for mentions and DM's first. There were a few, but nothing I'd rate as things that needed my attention right away. Then I opened up Instagram and same story. I scrolled through some images, replied to a few mentions, and then closed it back up.  Looked like I didn't miss much.  

Slack was next up - where I have a conversations with 3 very good friends about photography almost daily. They had already caught on and had mentioned they'd hold off on some topics until I was back online. Finally, the news. The headlines looked like the same ones I had read the last time I was online. 


This morning was the same exact thing as last Monday. But it seemed even less went on over the weekend - or less that I really cared about. I think I spent a total of 3 minutes on Twitter, Instagram and Slack combined today. Replied to 2 DMs and closed them out for the day. Life out there is progressing just fine without my interaction.

 Punkt MP 01 vs Light Phone

Adjusting to Dumb and Dumber

So, Punkt saw I was using Cody's MP 01 last week and decided to send me my own - this time a white version. The one Cody sent me was the first production run, and the latest one that Punkt sent has some nice OS upgrades and a better response from the buttons. You can stay tuned for the full review in April, but having a dedicated dumbphone has been really amazing. I have been completely off the smartphone for 5 days now and on the dumbphone (still on a single charge, by the way) exclusively since its arrival. This honestly makes the challenge 100% easier for me, as the smartphone begins to fade from muscle memory.

I've gotten pretty quick with the T9 texting already, though at times I still miss swipe-texting and threaded conversations - but have not missed a single app. Friends are getting used to my detox, though a few occasionally forget and try to send me multimedia on the phone, which I can't receive. 

I like that the MP 01 is becoming a very simple device - no need to look at the screen to see if I missed anything. It's there for texts and presumably phonecalls (haven't received any of those yet).

And speaking of simple, Cody even surprised me on Friday by sending down his "dumberphone" - The Light Phone. I'll be doing a review on this in April as well, but for those that don't know about this little guy, it's what you drop to when you want to do phone calls and nothing else. It's as dumb as they get, but in a good way. I've popped my SIM in there to give calling a try, which works fine. But it's too dumb for me at this point and popped the SIM back into the MP 01 right away.


We went out to the movies this weekend and it was fun making observations on the people around me. Not having a smartphone to bury my face in, I was forced to watch life around me - and it was like being the only sober guy in a bar. In the theater lobby, I counted 54 people mulling around at one point, with 38 of them having their faces in their phones, and 9 additional people with phones in their hands but not engaged with the device - only armed and ready to fire away. That means just 7 of 54 people in the lobby had their cells put away. No judgement, just an observation.

I noticed, as usual, the folks that felt it necessary to check their phones during the movie (huge pet peeve). The woman in front of me pulled her cell out every 15 minutes or so to check for notifications. I'd be watching the movie, only to have my vision interrupted by the bright blue glare of her giant iPhone. She responded to a couple notifications and was amazed that she couldn't unplug from social media for even 2 hours to enjoy a movie with her 2 children.

One other interesting observation - we went out to brunch this weekend and two people at my table apologized to me for taking out their cellphones to quickly check something. I thought it was kind of neat that they were conscious of my choices to unplug on weekends and approached the situation almost like having a drink in front of a recovering alcoholic.  Again, just an observation.

OK, that's all for the 2 week update for now. If you want to chat about any of this, drop me an email.

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