National Day of Unplugging – digital detox, FOMO and perfectionism

Today is the National Day of Unplugging (yes, it is really a thing!) and it is not too late to get in on the action! It starts at sundown tonight (Friday) and continues to tomorrow (Saturday) evening. And even if you miss it tonight, there’s still time in the coming weeks.

I’ve thought a great deal about how the constant flow of content coming at (all of) us is so draining, and how a few consecutive hours every week of being completely offline can make a big difference.

Time offline, often referred to as digital detox, can powerfully chip away at an overwhelming need to be in constant contact, and help override feeling left out, as highlighted in this great piece from a college student in this week’s NYTimes, “They Left Me Out and I Saw It All.” Short and powerful, this article is a great conversation starter for teens and young adults, not just to reflect on times when they have felt left out but also as a way of encouraging students to post and share with an empathetic heart… not everything needs to be readily documented. Being in the moment and experiencing it is often enough.

These feelings of FOMO also contribute to our culture of perfectionism and never feeling good enough.  As I mentioned in the Green Ivy newsletter earlier this week,  it’s no surprise (to me!) that the perfectionism and related tendencies have led to an increase in anxiety and depression among teens and young adults today. In  this recent NYTimes piece entitled, “As Students Struggle with Anxiety And Depression, Colleges Act As Counselors” highlights one of the reasons I wrote my second book, The Myth of the Perfect Girl: that college student affairs officers were telling me more and more students were showing up on their doorstep with greater mental health issues than ever before.

According to the article, “Students and institutions are grappling with issues like the surge in school shootings and trauma from suicides and sexual assault. But it’s not just the crises that have shaken this generation — it’s the grinding, everyday stresses, from social media pressures to relationship problems to increased academic expectations.” (Heightened academic expectations is one of the five issues I discussed in the first chapter of The Myth of the Perfect Girl).

But many of these pieces overlook another important reason for this overwhelming stress: rising wealth inequality. Many kids are often wondering how they can lives of in a manner similar to how they were raised, and parents stressed by the potential their kids won’t be economically successful tend to push harder (leading, potentially, to increased anxiety).

This piece in the Washington Post entitled, “The Parent Trap” discusses how economics changes the way we raise children. In fact, research shows that “the greater a country’s income inequality, the likelier parents are to push their kids to work hard.” Food for thought.

What can we do? Well, we can’t solve FOMO, perfectionism, and wealth inequality overnight, but we can take a few hours off and read a book, play a board game, have an extended family dinner using some conversation starters for teens, take a long walk, exercise, listen to music, have a dance party, or go to bed early and get a great night’s sleep.

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