How long are you able to stay offline?

Modern life is increasingly dependent on the Internet. We manage our finances, do our shopping and communicate with friends and family online. And when we’re not sitting at a desk working on a PC, we’re glued to our smartphones and tablets.

As we spend more time online, the more important connectivity becomes to our lives. We rely on apps to give us the news headlines, and email to keep us up to date with projects at work. And if we ever find ourselves trying to kill a few minutes while we wait in a queue, social networks provide a quick injection of humour or gossip to fill the time.

The importance of being able to get online means that we even choose hotel rooms for holidays based on whether there is in-room Wi-Fi available or not.

What happens when we lose connectivity?

This obsession with connectivity has a dark side though. Some people experience genuine emotional distress when they lose access to the internet.

In fact, some people even have problems with the thought of not being able to go online. One journalist even came up with a name for it: FOBO, the Fear of Being Offline.

How do I know if I have FOBO?

It’s important to note that FOBO is not a medically-recognised condition. But that’s not to say that you don’t have a problem – here are the warning signs:

  • You take a backup battery and charging cable for your phone everywhere you go.
  • Thinking about losing internet access makes you distressed.
  • You constantly scan for Wi-Fi connections so that your phone is always online.
  • You avoid places where you know the mobile signal/Wi-Fi is unreliable.
  • Your pre-travel research always begins with Wi-Fi availability at the destination.

Ultimately, if connectivity is your priority in most situations, you may have FOBO.

How to protect yourself

If you do have FOBO, the best protection is to reduce the risk of losing internet access. This means taking steps to ensure that you don’t lose connectivity in the first place.

Things to consider include:

  • Choosing a mobile network provider with extensive coverage to reduce the risk of being caught in a blackspot.
  • Installing anti-malware software on your phone and PC to prevent your connection being hijacked or broken (you should do this even if you don’t suffer from FOBO).
  • Replacing your router or installing Wi-Fi repeaters throughout your home to boost network coverage and eliminate blackspots.
  • Taking out a roaming Wi-Fi subscription to use national networks like The Cloud when you’re out and about.
  • Planning your travel routes to avoid rural areas with known blackspots.

FOBO might sound silly, but people really do experience anxiety at the thought of going offline. Hopefully these tips will help to manage those concerns.