Fear of Missing Out

Social experiment of unplugging myself from social networking platforms

Joseph Kim
Jan 26, 2017 · 8 min read
Facebook was worried that I was gone for a week on their platform
Grouped my social media apps into a folder so that I could think before impulsively going into Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook.

The book


Feels liberating and motivated to unplug my self from social media. But not going to lie, kind of scared of how this will go.

Was taking a morning dump and realized how dependent on Instagram to entertain myself. Definitely seeing myself spending less time on the toilet.

Went to my first class and didn’t look at my phone once which is very rare for me.

I switched from having my phone from vibrate to ring so that I don’t miss any notification. I also blocked my phone from showing notifications on the lock screen.


I bought tracing paper in the afternoon to cover up my phone because it was becoming too tempting to go on social media. This literally limits my ability to use my phone now.

Cooked at home and I definitely miss watching youtube or looking at Instagram while I eating lunch alone. It’s a good way to feel like I have accompany.

I started to cheat with email because I’m talking with my future employer about what team I want to join and there is no way to know when they emailed me without actually checking.

I got a snapchat and know by the color of the icon. It’s starting to worry me what the sender might think about me not replying for a whole day. Especially since social network is my only way of keeping in touch with my friends in Korea, I worry if this might effect our relationship.

I was at a meeting near Craig and I told my girlfriend to call me if she needed anything. She wanted me to buy Starbucks on my way back, but wasn’t able to ask me since she can’t text me and couldn’t call me because she didn’t know when my meeting would end.

I’m a heavy youtube fan and usually I watch youtube before I sleep. Today I worked on homework and slept when I was actually tired, feeling a bit more productive today.


Naturally looking at phone (trigger) but can’t see notifications, so no reward for me.

Watching people snapchat each other in class makes me miss it but at the same time feel proud about not being on my phone during class.


Whenever I go on my phone all these notifications roll in. Starting to feel less dependent on my phone and I’m actually starting to look at my wrist watch to check the time.

Talked about how alarming the scale of data social networking sites like Facebook use to market our information to businesses. And I felt a little better about not using social networking sites since it prevents me from being used as a business opportunity.

I wonder what it would be like to have a social media of people who unplugged themselves from social media like me.

Whenever I’m alone taking break or eating alone I’m starting to somewhat feel lonelier.

Starting to shop more, but at the same time I always shop.

Started to check if I paid my rent, phone bill, electricity bill, etc.

Saw a couple walk out of the university center today. The boyfriend was spying on his girlfriend’s phone that was keeping her busy.

I wonder if social media has effected their relationship in anyway. Well I will never know because they are strangers to me.

While taking a break outside —

What am I supposed to do with my left hand….

Wonder what people are posting on instagram…

Why do I care so much about other peoples’ lives…

Do I really care or am I just bored right now?

Why am I even thinking about this?

I decided not to bring my phone to my Friday night outing with my partner. Since I physically didn’t have a phone to look at while we talked, my partner naturally was in sync with me and kept her phone inside her coat throughout the night.

As the night went on that we were engaging in more meaningful conversations. We weren’t talking about Trump, Celebrities, or some event we saw on Facebook, we just talked about — life.

I wonder if I can influence my friends behavior by not taking my phone out during conversations.

I was on the 61D headed to Murray for Sunday brunch with my partner.

As we passed our campus, we saw some protesters with signs that were indecipherable from a distance. Some of the protesters hopped on the bus with signs that read “No Ban, No Will, No Hate”.

Out of curiosity I asked my partner what was going on? My partner went on Facebook and immediately we were able to see several status updates, photos, and articles about the protests against Trump’s immigration ban that were being held all across the nation.

Today I realized that my inactivity on social media could actually affect my daily life.

As I rushed out of my house today, I was invited by the slowly falling snowflakes.

People love to share any change they see in the sky. It’s natural to feel the need to share beautiful scenery, but seeing photos of snow before heading outside has always ruined my past first hand experiences with snow.

We’ve come to an age where we experience sensual emotions before we even encounter it physically.

A seemingly innocuous act such as simply going on Snapchat before you head out to school can potentially ruin your day. Watching your friends’ daily snaps will forecast what the weather will be like, what the general mood will be among your friend group, and even influence what you eat for lunch.

I give up.

There is perceived happiness, perceived improvement of productivity, and perceived benefits of unplugging from social media.

At the same time, these are all perceived benefits that don’t weigh the drawbacks of completely pulling the plug. Social media is a place for refuge, a place to rest ones head, a place for daily news, a place for communities and conversations and a place for education.

So whats next?

I gave in, but I’ve made some promises. I plan to use social media in small and healthy doses and stop using Instagram as a stream of conscious.

It was nice to drop off the grid and detox, but social media is so ingrained in our society that it’s almost impossible to function without it, but it can be done. All you need is a sheet of tracing paper and double sided tape; take time to return to the basics and see how it can improve your own life.

Post Detox

Although I started using my phone again, I lost the need to keep my phone with me at all times.

It’s surprising to see how many people constantly hold on to their phone as if they are waiting for some call from a recruiter about a job offer.

In one of my classes we had to rearrange into teams and I saw at least 1/3 of the people hold on to their phones as they relocated to different seats.

To be honest, there is nothing wrong with keeping ones phone within the vicinity of reach.

I just wonder if people are conscious of how attached they are to their phones and the triggers and reward they’ve been hooked by social media.

I could ask any of my colleagues if they think they are hooked to social media and I can only assume that no one would admit to their attachment.

The verdict

After two days of giving in, one of the biggest factor that I believe got me hooked to social media was instant messaging.

If we go way back in time, writing was a tool to record history, in a form of a diary or a script. Letters were the beginning of the exchanging of stories and emotions through writing. However, compared to modern instant messaging, people took the time to craft what they wanted to say and accurately express their emotions. There was a sense of excitement and self consciousness as one waited for a reply.

The introduction of instant messaging in our lives has eliminated this complexity. Instant messaging lacks tone, emotion, facial expressions, and body language that shapes rich conversations. Instant messaging causes misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and even deception which is why an argument can never be resolved online.

I don’t know what the answer to instant messaging will be. It’s distracting, instills the fear of missing out, but also connects us with distant loved ones across the globe.

Joseph Kim

Written by

Product Designer at Instagram. Previously at LinkedIn.