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Fear of blissing out

#FOBO

In the digital moment: wearing Solar Bare original print fashvest, Port Macquarie AU

After a sea change last year, seeking my daily dose of beach inspiration is easy and accessible. I feel fortunate every single day. The mood of the sky doesn’t matter – whether it’s fifty shades of grey and gloomy or brilliant blue, the ocean is gorgeous in any light. It looks dramatic when whipped up and showing deep grey tones, magnificent and inviting when turning on the aqua charm and positively energised when the swell is up. It’s an endlessly changing view and one that is at once calming and inspiring.

I often use this time to reflect on life and, in particular, social media. Because when you’re on the sand and gazing out to sea, nothing seems more distant and nothing seems more artificial and contrived than our digital social platforms.

But there is a magnetism about the digital world. We play and work online, share, compare and despair. We measure ourselves against curated feeds, show reels of lives well-lived, often feeling miniscule, diminished and dented because either our personal – or our professional – achievements seem to pale into insignificance against the success stories that are promoted and celebrated. We discover that algorithms change what we view and are exposed to, far more than our own decisions to browse online.

What compels or steers us to sit on a beach and ponder the meaning of life, or go for a hike in the mountains and disconnect for a time comes from within.

The thing is, even if we do disconnect and ponder the rise and rise of social media and whether or not we have enough followers to demonstrate ‘social proof’, it’s very likely that we’ll post about it afterwards, just adding to the collective self-doubt that is #FOMO. We’re so accustomed to checking our social feeds that we can’t easily imagine long periods of screen-free time.

Psychologists, wellness experts, parenting experts, bloggers, sleep specialists and world-renowned endocrinologists are now reminding or even urging us to leave our smart phones out of the bedroom. The incessant beeping and alerts stop us from drifting off and the blue light emitted from the screen literally tricks our brains into thinking it is daylight, causing the brain to stop producing melatonin, a hormone that cues your body to sleep.

While connectedness binds us together, disconnectedness is a whole new concept to consider. It’s a challenge we didn’t foresee, an unintended consequence of habitual technology use and the deliberate designs to capture and retain our attention online. You only have to watch young adults, teenage or even young children to realise that they depend on their devices for entertainment and amusement, and that the older ones feel totally awkward without a smartphone in hand. Plenty of older adults fall into that category, too. Not going to deny it, we’ve all been there.

It seems hard for people to chill out, that is, chill out without a device. Sure, most of us have experienced ‘fear of missing out’ online. But something has changed. Is it a fear of blissing out? You know, just being in the moment, with no distractions from influencers or algorithms at all. #FOBO

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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