Technology is all around us and it's moving fast. How fast? Consider this. The first website went live on August 6, 1991. As of this moment, there are over 1.7 billion websites on the Internet and new ones are added at a rate of about one per second. You can see what that first site looked like and watch the website counter at Internet Live Stats. It's mind boggling! (


Perhaps no area of technology has become more pervasive than everything related to communication. At the heart of this is the seemingly ever-present smartphone, which debuted in 2007.


In this regard, a report by reveals some interesting statistics. “The average smartphone owner unlocks their phone 150 times a day. Seventy-one percent usually sleep with or next to their mobile phone. Seventy-five percent of Americans use their mobile phones in the toilet. Twenty percent of people would rather go without shoes for a week than take a break from their phone.” There's a name for this usage pattern – nomophobia. “Simply put – it’s the fear of not having your phone with you.”

This behavior is being exhibited by younger age groups as never before. According to a survey by Common Sense Media, about one-fifth of third graders own a smartphone. “By the time tweens (ages 8-12) graduate to teen, nearly three-quarters have one. The average tween looks at a screen roughly 4.75 hours a day and the average teen, 7.4 hours. That’s not counting homework/school.”


So what are they doing on those phones? Part of the usage is gaming (22%) and watching TV/videos (39%). “Relative to 2015, time spent watching online videos is up 124% for tweens and 68% for teens.” (


By far, though, everyone from tweens to senior citizens are using their smartphones for keeping in contact with friends, family, and a myriad selection of other groups of people. This has become such a priority there's a term to describe the condition – FOMO (the fear of missing out). “One study describes it as having general anxiety over the idea that other people might be having fulfilling experiences without you...a social anxiety  characterized by a continuous need to be connected with the activities of one's friends or other people.” (


FOMO can have a downside. “When you're caught in the loop of FOMO you tune out the real world and tune in to the fake one. People with FOMO stop paying attention to life and turn to social media for their happiness cure. According to psychologist Nick Hobson, in Psychology Today, a way to combat FOMO could be to focus less on potential losses of missing out and more on the gains of what you're actually doing.” (


According to Psych Central, if you are perceptive, you can spot instances of FOMO all around you. “Teens and adults text while driving, because the possibility of a social connection is more important than their own lives (and the lives of others). They interrupt one call to take another, even when they don’t know who’s on the other line. They check their Twitter stream while on a date, because something more interesting or entertaining just might be happening. It’s not interruption, they claim, it’s connection. But it’s not really connection. It’s the potential for simply a different connection. It may be better, it may be worse — we just don’t know until we check.” (


Now, here's the kicker. FOMO can cost you money. An MLive article noted: “The FOMO phenomenon costs the average Michigander nearly $4,000 a year. Michiganders admitted to spending $308 per month – $3,702 annually – to avoid FOMO. Nationally, the areas people spend the most to avoid FOMO are vacations, restaurants, events, health and fitness, hair and makeup products and clothing.” 


Social media seems to make things worse. “About two-thirds of those surveyed said Facebook causes them the most FOMO. One-third of survey respondents said they feel sad or excluded when they see photos of friends or family at an event they didn’t attend; this affects women more than men. Sixteen percent of people admitted they go to events or on trips with social media photo posts in mind.” (


Battling FOMO is no easy task. Psych Central concludes: “The reality is that there are few things so truly important in life, they can’t wait. Fear of missing out is a very real feeling that’s starting to permeate through our social relationships. The question is — will we ever settle for what we have, rather than cling to the fear that we may be missing out on something better? Social media is making this increasingly more difficult.” 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and