I started experiencing Fear of Missing Out (or FOMO) when I joined Facebook in high school, and from there it progressed further as I opened more social media accounts in college. This problem became more than just an urgency to check for social media updates, but for a period of time, I was even starting to compare myself to other people that I didn’t know very well. That was when I had to put my foot down and do something about it because I never had any major issues with self-esteem up until that point. In the end, this whole experience taught me that the only thing people should really “fear” is missing out on life. By that, I mean your life.
A lot has changed since then, but that doesn’t mean I stopped using social media because it’s still a part of my personal and professional life. The only difference now is that I’m not preoccupied with what I see on my feed as much, and if I am then I’m probably looking at what is currently trending in the news.
Realistically speaking, dealing with FOMO is not an easy process, and sometimes it feels like it’s never actually over. It took time (perhaps maturing has something to do with it?), willpower, and constant distractions to get to a point where I could finally manage this type of anxiety. For instance, I had to unfollow a lot of friends and liked pages that were clogging up my Facebook feed. I also turned off my notifications or left my phone at home when I felt like I needed to be more grounded in order to focus on other things. I tried to keep myself busy with a lot of work, reading, exercising, TV shows, and so on. Overall, I had to accept the fact that I was going to be missing out on things regardless, but even then I knew I was still going to be okay.
As long as I’m enjoying my present day life then nothing else should matter.
If you’re serious about taking a digital detox, then I compiled a short list of my top app recommendations for putting those FOMO tendencies to rest. While recommending apps might defeat the purpose of putting down your phone, there are a couple of apps with extremely effective features that either push you a little day by day or push you straight right in. They are definitely worth a shot.
When The Internet is Tempting You At Work
This app was my go-to when I needed to get projects done in college, and I still use it today when I need to get writing done. SelfControl is a free Mac app that blocks access to websites, as well as incoming and outgoing email servers (which is useful if you’re addicted to your email). Simply add the URLs to all your favorite websites on your block list, set the amount of time you wish to be blocked from them, and you’re good to go! This app is only available for Mac users, but Cold Turkey has a very similar, maybe even better, concept for Windows users (and it’s also a free download!).
Freedom is the grown up version of SelfControl. It’s sleeker, friendlier, and more practical for career-driven folks. This is a foolproof distraction-blocker; it connects with all of your devices and pre-schedules reoccurring or one-time-only blocking sessions. Lastly, as if this can’t get any better, Freedom is available for Mac and Windows users! The only downside is that it’s not free for downloading because it’s a monthly/yearly subscription-based service (with the exception of the “Forever” price deal). On the other hand, you do get 7 free “Freedom” sessions with all of the juicy benefits that come along with it when you sign up, and if all goes well then it might be worth your penny.
When You Are Hopelessly Addicted To Your Apps
App Detox (Android)
I highly recommend using an app like AppDetox if you are self-disciplined and want to cut back on a few apps that have you glued to your phone. For example, my boyfriend barely uses social media except for Reddit, and his Reddit fixation tends to make him lose track of time when he isn’t careful. With AppDetox, he has the option to set his own rules for using Reddit, and every time he violates those rules, the app will remind him to stop and keep a record of his violations. AppDetox is only available for Android users, but if you’re looking for an iOS equivalent then look into the Freedom app (see above), or keep reading for more options.
When You Lose Track of Time On Your Phone
Moment is similar to AppDetox, but instead of keeping track of your Android app usage it keeps track of your Apple device usage, which includes all of your iPhones and iPads. This can be especially useful if there are other people on your phone and data plan that also need to step away from their Apple products. With these features, you can keep track of their daily usage and set time restrictions [and consequences] for you and everyone else to follow. Moment now offers the Apple Watch App for iPhone.
Quality Time (Android)
QualityTime takes the simple concepts behind AppDetox and Moment even further by providing you with a huge, comprehensive report of all your phone and app activity. All your data is displayed in a timeline format that indicates which app was used on which day, and how much time it was used for by the hours, minutes, and even seconds. The app also has an hourly, daily, and weekly summary report of all your phone usage, which includes a list of your most used apps. QualityTime has features that can restrict you from using your favorite apps, while other restrictions let you block notifications and set auto-reply text messages for incoming calls and texts. QualityTime is only available for Android users, but RealizD is a dead ringer for iOS users.
When You Really Need a Hardcore Digital Detox
Flipd (iOS, Android)
Has your FOMO been getting out of control recently? Flipd has one extreme solution: make all your apps disappear from your phone for an unlimited amount of time. While using the Flipd app, you can “Flip Off” (I don’t know why this makes me chuckle) and set a timer on a lock screen to track how much time you spent off your phone. You can even enable a feature called “Full Lock” when you Flip Off, which allows you to set certain times when you want all of your [downloaded] apps to disappear and reappear. Flipd also syncs up with your calendar, so you can always check for reassurance if you aren’t sure when your apps are going to come back on your phone again.
This may not be an app, but I wanted to let my fellow iPhone users know that there is a tried-and-true method for enabling restrictions through your settings. With all the fuss that comes along with downloading a productivity app, you can control which apps you want to hide and what kind of content you want to allow by simply going to Settings > General > Restrictions. There is another feature (Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access) that locks you inside of a single app, which means you can’t exit out of it unless you have a passcode. Granted, this feature is mostly used as a parental control, but you could probably make it work by having a friend or roommate set a passcode for you. When all else fails, Settings > Airplane Mode is always the way to go.