Do You Suffer From InFOMO?

The Devil is about addiction.

It’s Monday morning.

The alarm goes off, as it does every Monday morning, at 7:00. Before I’ve gotten out of bed, I’ve already checked the weather, both inboxes, and my podcast feed. On that day, at that hour, the only podcast that begins downloading is WTF with Marc Maron. I check the guest’s name and the episode description. In the few seconds between downloading and downloaded, I decide if I know or care about this interviewee. I either let the podcast finish downloading or swipe left to delete it.

I used to feel guilty about that. Deleting podcasts. Because you never know who might say something that could inspire a blog post…or much more. After all, it was a 2013 WTF interview that pushed me to start taking improv classes.

But with two hour-and-a-half-plus episodes each week, I eventually gave in. There just wasn’t enough time to listen to every c-list comedian. Did they have interesting stories? Yes, often. But “interesting” wasn’t enough to justify a download. Because if I did download a WTF episode, it would just become podcast number 18 or 21 or 24, adding an hour and a half to a playlist already 16+ hours long.

I love podcasts, but my to-listen playlist is a slog. I feel compelled to fill every spare moment with audio because, if I don’t, I will surely fall behind and never catch up. I’ve even found myself inventing chores just to squeeze in a little extra listening.

It would be one thing if I truly enjoyed every podcast I subscribe to, but I don’t. There are a few I look forward to each week (FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast, Slate Political Gabfest, Player 1 Podcast, The Bugle), but many I listen to out of some perverse sense of obligation…or fear. Out of InFOMO (information FOMO)—the fear of missing out on valuable information, knowledge or insight. Not only does that mean I’m stuck listening to shows I don’t enjoy, but it makes the shows I do enjoy less enjoyable. Rather than savoring a great program, I feel the need to race through it so I can get on to the next one.

Last week, I finally said “enough.” I ripped the Band Aid off and deleted half of my subscriptions…possibly forever. And I feel great.

podcast feed

Yes, many of them were full of wonderful storytelling, interesting information, and breaking news. But what was the point beyond simply collecting facts? I already said it wasn’t for entertainment. And many of those shows were not inspiring new blog posts, new creative ideas, or new projects. As my friend Mike recently wrote in his newsletter:

For a long time, my conviction was that gathering a lot of facts about different subject areas would be enough to make me wise. I should read voraciously, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries, and so on…

The truth is that in order to become truly smart, you have to spend about as much time away from the rush of information as you do in it. You have to tend to your mind and what it has just taken in, or you won’t retain or make anything useful out of it.

I hadn’t deleted those shows earlier because I was scared. I’d been suffering from from inFOMO. I was afraid of what I’d lose rather than what I’d gain—more time to enjoy the shows I loved, and more space to make something from what I’d learned.

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