Toby Daniels is the founder and Executive Director of Social Media Week and CEO of New York-based Crowdcentric. This post is part of The Future of Now series which will explore the societal implications of our technology obsession.


FOMO. YOLO. Live in the moment. Carpe Diem!

These phrases have permeated our lives, instructed us and established a foothold in our subconscious. We want it now, and it’s making us sick.

Literally. When you’re sad, you want everything now. The beauty of anticipation decreases, and we condition ourselves to get it all now, immediately.

We are conditioned for overstimulation and overscheduling, which in turn are becoming chronic stressors that lead to behavioral, mood and attention disorders. Across the board, we’re seeing an increase in stress-related disorders. We have ended up shortchanging our future for immediate gratification. Yet, when we delay gratification, we increase our overall success, social competence, and happiness in general.

We’re living on a knife’s edge of immediate gratification and wanting to get the most out of every moment. This YOLO parody sums it up.

yolo lonely island 730x312 Wanting everything in tech now is making you sick

Really? You have to check that right now? Oh, I’m sorry, there’s a building on fire, you say? A cat needs rescuing from a tree? Sorry, what? Someone just Liked your recent Facebook post?

Let me ask you a question or ten:

  1. Are you more likely to respond to a text straight away than an email?
  2. Are people more likely to get hold of you via a Twitter DM than a phone call?
  3. Do you check your phone when getting up to pee in the middle of the night?
  4. Do you sleep with your phone by your nightstand?
  5. Do you sleep with your phone in your bed? (Honestly?)
  6. Have you set up alerts to give you breaking news stories the minute they hit the twitterverse?
  7. Have you recently averted your attention from a real-life conversation to check your notifications?
  8. Do you rush to check your most recent email even though you have a huge backlog of unanswered and potentially important ones to respond to?
  9. Would you like more time away from technology to focus on other things?
  10. Does the thought of unplugging from tech make you anxious?

Why though?

Technology was supposed to makes us more productive and live happier and more fulfilled lives. It was supposed to give us more in our lives — not less.

But we’re embracing the real-time immediacy of what technology and social media provides without being conscious of the potential short and long-term consequences and how it might lead to feeling depressed, overwhelmed and anxious.

Taking back control

How can we use tech to help us get back to a balanced sense of time and a greater sense of control? Interestingly, there’s a growing body of new tools emerging focused on this. Yes, that’s right, technology is the solution!

1) ASocial: helping you gamify putting away tech to reconnect based on your calendar.

2) EventParrot: helps consolidate tech updates and high level news, so you can get it when it’s appropriate.

3) Evernote: keep your notes on the go, so you don’t have to lose that inspiration but can stay connected to those around you.

4) TaskRabbit and FancyHands: task assignment platforms that allow you to outsource more manual projects to maximize your time.

5) Time Warp: a Chrome extension that reminds you of your goals each time you open a window- giving you the opportunity to remind yourself of what you should be working towards when you click through a BuzzFeed Breaking News update.

6) MyEffectivenessHabits: this scheduling app allows you to prioritize based on priority, which ultimately forces you to decide what you want to place emphasis on.
7) Swizzle: combine all your newsletters into one digest to get it in one scoop.
8) Happier: it’s a social gratitude journal that reminds you of what you’re grateful for. It can definitely keep you on track.
9) Newsy: for those that who want to stay in the know about world news, Newsy provides a 2-3 minute video clip highlighting important events daily.
10) Balanced: taking a spin from normal to-do apps, Balanced asks you to create a list for the things that are important to you and then helps you stick to it.

Outside of tech, couples are instituting a no-screen policy in bedrooms or at dinner. Teams are creating “Laptops Down” rules for meetings. Individuals are taking social sabbaticals. The Pomodoro Technique of scheduling breaks to force you away from your computer for enhanced creativity is taking off.

Be it through apps, platforms or software or unplugging entirely, we know there are a host of tools to help us navigate this challenge. But whatever way you do it, it’s important to remember that the past, present, and the future are all important to live for. Now is just one portion of it all — but you have to present in it to take advantage of it.

Image credit: Shutterstock/Creativa


How can we regain control, establish balance, and preserve what makes us human? This is what we will be exploring during this years Social Media Week, as part of The Future of Now, which kicks off February 17-21 in New York City.