Being an older person, I am apt to say that my students are dramatically affected by technology and a strong sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). This fear has been a long standing human trait that has driven the advancement of technology, social apps are not made, they are representing a need, then created. The buzz of the phone or a little chime sets off a Pavlov need to consume that email, text, tweet, tag or photo in the digital landscape.
How is this fear then related to outdoor leadership? I have found that many of my trips are plagued with these rectangular stow-a-ways, placed there, maybe, firstly, as protection, the quick call to help. Documentation, a snapped photo or a video hunk of the passing clouds against the peak. Yet, how often have I, the stalwart leader, been tempted to check email, the dreaded FB and more on top of a peak, during lunch, after the group photo was taken? Many, many times. I have the need to see how, when, what and where my family friends and such are throughout the world. This is the pull many students face when faced with down time, after all of their social training and topped with the peer fear of missing out.
As an adult, especially judging the younger generation around me at their need (I say addiction to other teachers) to check and post and check and post, I am consumed by hypocrisy. I wake to my phone and scroll through, until the fingers get number and cold, the shoulder is sore and I’ve started to read repeat posts. This is shameful and I struggle to stop.
With compassion and a touch of wisdom, I ask students to turn off the phone, not take pictures with the camera (do we need pictures of every trip) and leave the FOMO behind for a day of hiking, a day without the selfie. This will become increasingly hard to do as more and more students rise up through the connected nature of the world. Already on solo trips, I have students tweeting and texting throughout the their ordeal. Almost if writing about it makes it real, the reaction makes the experience valuable by having something others are afraid to miss out on. Much like this blog post.