FOSO: The Fear of Switching Off – Unplugging in the Digital Age

FOSO: The Fear of Switching Off – Unplugging in the Digital Age

In recent years, a new fear has gripped people worldwide—FOSO, the Fear of Switching Off. As we embark on vacations, this fear follows us, preventing a complete disconnection from our day-to-day lives. A study conducted by Priority Pass on nearly 9,000 travelers from 11 countries reveals that one-third of tourists experience this fear, aptly named FOSO.

What is FOSO?

FOSO, short for ‘Fear of Switching Off,’ is that persistent feeling that tethers us to our devices and work obligations even when we should be unwinding. It’s akin to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) but pertains to emails, messages, and the constant barrage of notifications that keep us on edge. A 2016 study highlighted that the stress doesn’t only arise from responding to after-hours emails but also from the anticipatory stress—the expectation of having to respond after work hours.

Why Do People Suffer from FOSO?

Several factors contribute to the rise of FOSO, creating an ‘always-on’ culture that has been exacerbated by the work-from-home trend, technology, and the pressure to be hyper-productive.

1. Technology:

Being constantly connected fuels the fear of missing out on information. The ability to work around the clock, from anywhere in the world, can induce guilt if one isn’t being productive or if there’s pressure to respond to emails outside of regular work hours.

2. Blurred Work-Life Boundaries:

The shift to remote and hybrid work environments during the pandemic has blurred the lines between work and personal life. Working from home erases the physical boundaries of the office, and the need to prove productivity can contribute to the inability to switch off.

3. Social Media and Productivity:

While FOMO revolves around the fear of missing out on social occasions, FOSO takes a different form. The ‘hustle culture’ on social media glorifies working long hours and being hyper-productive, fostering a constant drive to achieve an amplified version of success.

Overcoming FOSO

In 2023, FOSO continues to haunt vacationers, with 67% feeling stressed if their phone is off or has no signal, and 60% refusing to leave their accommodations without their mobile devices. Generation Z is particularly affected, with over half struggling to reduce phone time, and 51% checking work messages even during holidays.

One potential solution to alleviate FOSO is to ensure a seamless vacation experience, starting with stress-free airport processes, lounge services, and indulging in some retail therapy.

In a society that emphasizes “information is power,” the constant demand for information in every aspect of our lives reinforces the need to stay connected. We navigate high levels of complexity at work and in daily activities, constantly providing information, answering queries, and staying informed about codes and passwords.

In a way, contemporary society consolidates the need for continuous connection and the reluctance to store all information in our minds, opting instead for tools that facilitate these processes.

In conclusion, FOSO is a byproduct of the digital age, a challenge that requires a delicate balance between staying connected and embracing the undeniable benefits of unplugging. As we navigate this intricate dance, understanding the roots of FOSO is the first step toward breaking free from its grip and truly enjoying moments of relaxation, even during well-deserved vacations.

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