FOMO, or “fear of missing out,” is a feeling many of us have become all too familiar with as our friends take to their social media accounts en masse to share the seemingly carefree, exhilarating, romantic, and creative moments they’re enjoying - without us.
We compare and weigh experiences every day. Depending on our perspective, the comparisons vastly differ. To an extroverted person, staying in, even if their body is screaming at them to rest and be alone, equates to social suicide. What if I miss out on amazing conversations and moments with the most interesting of people? If I’m not there to witness whatever fortuitous occurrences are sure to ensue, will I live to regret it, as my friends recount the tales of what transpired that one brilliantly amazing night? To an introverted person, the inner dialogue is of the opposite kind - if I leave my house and venture into the unknown, and don’t have the best time of my life, aware that I could stay in and enjoy the comforts of the known, what is the point of venturing out?
To an intro-extroverted person like myself, FOMO takes on a confusing shape. My inner dialogue goes something like: how do I exist in more than one place at a time? I desire to do all of the things, everywhere and anywhere. I want to sway to the melodic hum of that new local indie band, while I cuddle my cats and become as lost in the story I’m reading as the characters themselves, who steadfastly trudge through murky orc mud en route to Mordor…
If there’s one thing Instagram and Facebook succeed at, it’s feeding our egos. At one point or another you will come across a photo on one of these platforms that makes you feel like you missed out, or nudge you to compare what’s happening in another person’s life to your own, either to their apparent advantage, or yours. Thoughts like, wow, what a beautiful family and home they’ve created for themselves at twenty-five, and here I am approaching thirty, microwaving a frozen Amy’s dinner and asking Google why my cat’s poop looks weird, might pop up. Or, aren’t they looking quite ho-ish these days! What a mess. Glad I’ve got my shit together. This is the ego talking. And boy, does it speak loudly. The ego loves wallowing in negative feelings, because that’s where it can effectively grow and build a home. As with any unwanted pest, the dark and dank corners of the home are where it finds refuge.
We could all benefit from heeding Tripper (Bill Murray)’s advice from Meatballs - “It just doesn’t matter.” And it really doesn’t. You’ve likely heard before that Instagram and Facebook pages typically feature someone’s highlight reel. Well, there’s something to that notion - social media is not reality, therefore our pages don’t often showcase the most difficult challenges we face daily, and let’s face it, bikini-clad/beer-toting boat pics often get more likes than a sad selfie with the caption, #Depression. Even though, many of us can feel depressed along with a gamut of emotions while we appear to be drenched in boat-beer-bikini euphoria.
In Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut introduces a Bokononist word, FOMA, which translates to lies, or harmless untruths, depending on how you interpret its meaning. I recently read it again for the first time in fifteen years (well before Instagram and Facebook continuously lit up my iPhone screen). When FOMA came up in my re-read, I audibly chuckled and sighed. That’s what FOMO is. These words are one vowel off, and that isn't their only similarity; when it comes to FOMA, if you understand and accept its lies, you can live a decent life (according to ancient Bokononist text).
With FOMO, if you realize that fear is debilitating and completely unnecessary, you can live not just a decent life, but an enlightened one. Perceived fear of missing something that is not of our current present moment is troublesome. It renders us incapable of being content and noticing the beauty of life, right here, in the now. Not there, not tomorrow, and certainly not yesterday. Moments occur in present time, and if we’re too busy worrying about whether or not we’re missing out on something incredible, something occurring away from us, the damage is already done, because we are missing out.
We’re missing out on the majesty of now.
Let’s remember to take a few deep breaths, lean into whichever decision we have chosen for our Friday night plans, and ride that wave with an open mind. We might even *gasp* have fun!