Being connected is being contented. Be it a formal workplace or some remote working environment, FOBO — the fear of being offline — costs high in terms of downtrends in concentration, governance, creativity and productivity. Fear undermines man’s ability to concentrate, operate and create; the price of which is monetarily quantifiable for corporations.

During the Covid-19 era, fear of being offline costs higher in developing countries where the employees are more likely to face problems caused by poor internet connections and inhospitable suspension of electricity. The multinational corporations, though benefitting from the work-from-home model, seem to sink a portion of their anticipated revenues into immersing nature of fear. Together with other pushes, FOBO appears to encourage the underutilisation of intellectual assets.

Surprisingly, 66 per cent of cellular phone users in the country are suffering from fear of being offline, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. According to Gallup, 35pc of the world’s population experiences stress, chiefly caused by fear of being unattended which is reflective of FOBO. Despite a large number of advocates of remote working settings, fear of being offline and the non-existence of physical stature at workplaces have reduced the efficiency of workers by 6pc.

Let a few questions strike your mind. Do you keep on thinking of plausible connectivity interventions while surfing the internet? Do you feel upset while offline for some technical fault? Have you ever smelt out a chunk of anger in your attitude when you are not connected to digital devices? Do you feel pensive when your internet is off? If ‘yes’ is your response to any of these questions, stay apprised you are suffering from fear of being offline.

According to Gallup, 35pc of the world’s population experiences stress, chiefly caused by the fear of being unattended

Everyone wants to stay up on emails, social media streams and communication channels. Habit has become second nature. Gone are the days when necessity was the mother of invention. Inventions define our needs now. The new media has taken up the workstyles but taken down the level of efficacy. The personnel do not only fear getting out of the important meetings and webinars, but they also urge to quench their thirst for using social media while at work. They can hardly avoid rules of business. This is where unresponsiveness to the digital society takes the form of fear of being offline to the outer sphere. The stronger desire to stay on social media therein imparts a disturbed work-life balance and low productivity.

Being a distinctive emotion, fear of being offline tempers the brain’s activity that regulates cognition and perception. It retards man’s pace to think, decide and act. Irrespective of the stimulus, all fears cause the excretion of specific hormones — adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase heart rate and limit muscular movements. You could now imagine how the fear of being offline could ruin your professional aura.

In the light of Pavlov’s theory of conditioning, human beings learn from successive audio-visual repetitions. The massive proliferation of the internet and the new media has made us conditioned to unconditionally respond to the fear of being offline. It could be treated using principles of Pavlovian fear conditioning.

Social training and professional drills could cope with the fear of being offline. Switch off your internet intentionally for at least ten minutes each time you want to get connected. FOBO is the result of a mere addiction that could be overcome by strong intention and motivation.

Aversion therapy could facilitate mitigating the level of fear of being offline. Under such therapy, the victims could learn how to give up unessential habits. Similarly, the big firms could supply a feeling of freedom to remote workers. Revenues could be measured by the strenuous workforce efforts and not by the amount of online connectivity.

Consuming caffeine — tea, coffee, chocolate — helps manage needless fear. FOBO may push you to spend nights in insomnia. Develop the habit of sleeping with your mobile phone switched off. Believe me or not, nothing bad would happen to yout world!

Taking exercise daily and budgeting time for family and friends keep you happier and relieves fear. Exercise invigorates neurotransmitters, boosts thinking ability and enhances cognition. Exercises thus could invariably handle the fear of being offline. Furthermore, putting restrictions on browsing social media while working, eating and travelling could relieve your fear of being offline. Practise these tactics as much as you can. Finally, you would have ample time for your personal life without getting your professional things disturbed.

We are living in the age of e-commerce. Speaking of the entrepreneurs, FOBO becomes a matter of trade for them. They take every moment as an opportunity to receive and process every order. Here the fear of being offline takes the form of a professional reservation.

Take the advantage of technology fearlessly by laughing away the fear of being offline.

The writer is a socio-economic analyst. waheedmba@yahoo.com

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, March 14th, 2022

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