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Don’t Miss This One


I check my email 1746 times a day, or thereabouts. My inbox is by far the cleanest of all my personal spaces. No message is left concealed for longer than an hour.  Not that I necessarily do anything about it, but rest assured I’ve read it.

I’m an addict. I check my email even when I’ve just checked it and know there isn’t anything new.  I check my email when I had intended to do something else, then promptly forget what that something else was. I check it when I bored. I check it when I’m busy. I check it when I’m in a house. I check it when I click my mouse. I check my email here and there. I check my email anywhere.

I don’t have a smart phone for this precise reason – having mobile access to my email would consume my life. I can see myself, head buried in my phone, making sure I’m not missing that all important email,  as I walk by beautiful women, $100 bills, panda bears, and Elvis Presley. Life would be reduced to Inbox (1).

I blame irregular reinforcement. It’s the same mechanism that creates slot junkies and World of Warcraft fiends. Every now and again you get something good. It doesn’t matter much what that something good happens to be – money or nerd points may drive you, but the beauty of the email is that the reinforcement is totally unknown. It might be the president asking you to dinner for all you know; his tab. The potential upside of an email knows no bounds. Whatever it is, to me,  missing an opportunity like baba ghanoush  at the White House (Obama’s Arab right?) is an unacceptable risk.

At least 500 million people are the same way. Sure, you may claim simple sociability for the flurry of Facebook friending, but I think there’s something else at play.  There’s the fear of missing out. With Facebook, I can keep tabs on my friends;  I can reassure myself that my life is up to snuff; or, I can discover that it isn’t, and fret. Fret, fret, fret. Either way, I need to know. To live without comparison is a noble goal indeed, but far from the norm.

I think it may also be why we watch the news. Despite it being utterly depressing, and oddly repetitive, we watch or read the news every day. Every now and again, our loyalty is rewarded. Like today, the miners in Chile were rescued! It only took 69 days of pulling the one-armed bandit.

Why the fear of missing out? It could be competition. The drive, both innate and bred, to get that leg up on the person next to us. Or, it could be the exact opposite. Just trying to keep up with each other, to be part of the in-crowd.  I’m not really sure. Maybe my email holds the answer…

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