Living with FOMO: A True Story

Many current dictionaries, especially those that also have online versions now include the word FOMO in their entries. Of course marked as slang, this neologism is in great use and generally understood by the youth at large to mean an ailment wherein the sufferer feels great remorse, regret, and overall anxiety when unable to participate in an event, opportunity, or moment where joy and gaiety would most certainly be in abundance. AKA Fear of Missing Out.

It’s no wonder this disease has surfaced in recent years. What with the ubiquity and downpour of social media all around us, how could one not feel like they were missing out on something? I know for me, on an average day I will see on Instagram at least one example of each of the following enviable things: Someone gallivanting handsomely through European countrysides. Someone participating in some sort of water sport that I will likely never be able to do, or have the fancy nautical friends to do it with. Someone eating food that I will not be able to afford in the foreseeable future. Someone enjoying some simple pleasure with the absolute love of their life in a way that a single person views as both beautiful, moving, and nauseating. Someone at a concert that I surely would have gone to had an invite been extended. Someone at a sporting event with seats that guarantee the view of premier athletes and celebrities and their pores and their favorite curse words audible. Someone at a swanky party. Someone clearly having fun and clearly making use of their phone, the same phone they will not text you back on. The list goes on and on depending on how many people you follow and how frequently you look at your devices, but needless to say there is a never-ending surfeit of reminders that people, people you know, are having more fun than you are. It’s exhausting. So what is the real issue here? Is it too much social media, too much online checking up on people? Or is it controlling our default human setting to be jealous of people doing things we aren’t? Maybe it’s none of that. Maybe the real insidious problem is not overactive scrolling habits or battling against boredom, maybe it’s in not enjoying the moments in our own lives because we are too concerned about what we might be missing. I’ve spent many nights hopping from one party to the next and I’ve found that the problem isn’t necessarily in hopping. After all, there might be a few gatherings across town that all sound fun and all contain people I know. The issue is that in doing this, each party turns out to be a rather miserable experience because I’m not enjoying my conversations, I’m visually scouring the premises for some great exciting center, for some saturnalian wonder to captivate and overtake me. And I’m also wondering what talented and well-connected beacons of human beauty I am missing at the next soiree. Again, it’s exhausting.

Even on vacation I have fallen prey to this devilish little feeling of FOMO. As with most things you do, there is downtime and moments that aren’t filled with pleasure bursting at the seams. So, I find myself thinking ‘Ya this Swiss hillside is breathtaking and all, but I know my buddy is in Norway playing on fjords and that might just make for a slightly better evening.’ It feels like a terrible sin to even admit that thought, but it’s true. It feels like there is something deep inside my tummy that wants me to never be happy. Maybe that’s my own issue, my own demon I need to overcome, but I know many people close to me struggle to be happy even when they are experiencing happiness.

I know what you are thinking. This is the part where I tell you the magical way to never have FOMO. I pat you on the back and tell you that that toxic way of thinking is a thing of the past. I wish it was that easy. If it was, I would probably teach wildly lucrative seminars (and hey maybe I will down the road when I perfect the matter) to those chronically incapable of having a good time. I think the real solution isn’t anything drastic or intense, I think it boils down to recognizing how unhealthy and counterproductive it is to worry about fun being had elsewhere. Sure, if you are bored and lazily scrolling through HULU looking for the perfect movie to watch, one you haven’t seen, and one that will make you forget your current set of adult problems while also allowing you to feel very real human emotions, while also not being one of those movies you can only watch by upgrading to HULU+, then maybe seeing that your friends are having fun at the beach is a good thing, because it will get you off your fanny and into the sun. But when your FOMO reaches a point where you are distracted, unpresent, even moody while you should be enjoying yourself and those you are with, you have a problem and should consider a new calculus for how you spend your time, the one thing in life that you will surely run out of. Perhaps it is a silly aspiration, but I want to be so deeply embedded in the fun I’m having that thoughts of other elsewhere fun has no ability to creep into my thought waves. Wouldn’t that be beautiful, to care so much about the present moment to forsake the notion that things might be better, greener you might say over the bend?



My Official Review of Tinder

Every few weeks while I am diligently swiping left and right on Tinder, perusing the women of the internet, the sweet dames of cyberspace, the app will suddenly disrupt my window-shopping with a pop-up that asks if I would like to rate the application. Bugged though I am, I recognize that it is a lovely little tool for meeting coeds, so I give it five stars. Then it asks if I would like to leave a review. Does anyone actually do this? I know I always feel like stopping my swiping and messaging to inflate the ego of a billion dollar company seems like a poor use of my time. But it has made me think. Each time I am asked I reflect, even if subconsciously, on my time on the app. Has it been worth it? Has it helped me? Has it hindered my progression towards love, has it made me view women as a never-ending rolodex of disposable possibilities? Honest and full answers of these questions are difficult and multi-layered, but I think it’s worth exploring.

Sometime in 2012 my roommate came home and asked if I had heard about Tinder. I was in the dark, but once he broke down the premise for me I was on board without further questioning. So I could meet attractive women just because they liked my pictures and I liked theirs? It seemed like such a beautiful and simple concept. At least now I would know the person I met was surely at least moderately attracted to me. I got to work immediately.

I still recall my very first “Tinder Date” (the ubiquitous use of this name I despise by the way, I mean do you say Met Organically at Coffee Shop Date, or In The Same Class Date, or even Hoping to Hook up Date?). She was cute and we hung out at her place, watched a dumb movie and made out on the carpet because the couch was small and I am not a short person. If my memory holds up, we never talked again. Now I know what you are thinking—no wonder this guy loves Tinder, he’s just like all the other sleaze weasels out there, just wants a piece. But relax for a second and hear me out. I have always dated a lot, and have always kissed a lot. This started in middle school and has nothing to do with online dating and everything to do with my own issues (of which do not concern the purview of this essay). With that being said, I did enjoy Tinder immensely and met women often. In my mind it was just another way to meet someone. I still met girls organically, it just added another medium. And though there were not a few paramours and ill-advised decisions way too close to dawn, I actually dated with a certain amount of seriousness a few girls that I met from the app. A few of them didn’t live especially close, but were otherwise so amazing that we even attempted long-distance (within the state) relationships. Though a couple burned out in horrible fashion, I counted myself lucky to have met these girls that without Tinder I would never have come across. It was like whatever force was behind destiny and kismet and cosmic matchmaking all of the sudden recruited an army of invisible warriors of love to help me meet the right person. I know that sounds tremendously dumb, but it’s more or less how I felt.

Let’s fast forward to 2017. I am still single. I still use Tinder and other dating apps. I am now done with college and am a debatably less appealing age, 30. So, all in all, has it been worth it? Often on the app girls will ask questions like, “What are you looking for on here?” or “Have you had much success on Tinder?”. It takes a lot of self-control at this point to not dive head-first into why I think those questions are asinine. So I usually respond with honest brevity, “Girls” or “Yes”. But given the space and time we have here (assuming you are still reading), I will tell you how I feel. When asked why I am on a dating app, I feel like telling that person that it depends greatly on what they want, on how attractive I really find them in person, and how well we connect. No girl wants to hear “I am looking for a super hot girl that I fall deeply and maddeningly in love with and that will one day bear me 3-5 children.” They also don’t want to hear, “Well we obviously have nothing in common and hold diametrically opposed views of the world, so maybe we should just briefly hookup, but in a fun and tender way that you will both enjoy and cherish as a memory and certainly not as a shameful and regrettable act that leads to further self-loathing and cynicism.” So you give them a stock answer: “I am just looking to get to know someone and see where it goes.” That seems to pacify most concerns. As far as the question of if I have had success on the app, again, I am not sure they really want the truth. Should I say, “Well I would think so, I have been out with hundreds of girls, had girlfriends, kissed countless (that’s just an expression, I actually have the exact number written down), and have overall just been crushing it for nearly half a decade.” That’s gross, no one wants to read that. Is the equally truthful alternative any better, “Well, no I haven’t had success because I am still single, and I still get dozens of stunning matches that won’t respond, and have been stood up multiple times and bailed on hundreds of times, and I say I don’t have commitment issues, but I probably do, and the use of an app based wholly on relative hotness likely exacerbates the condition, and the paradox of choice might be crippling my ability to settle (a word I disdain in dating contexts by the way) on one female, and on top of that, the myriad of fake accounts and unattractive sludge I have to wade through is taxing and at times disturbing.” No, in no way can you ever say something like that. So again, you revert to more generic rejoinders like, “Oh I suppose I have had a little success, but nothing amazing.”

I am tempted to get into long comparisons of competing apps like Bumble, Mutual, and OKCupid (my knowledge of Grindr being cursory at best), but to me it just depends on the demographic. Certain cities, age groups, and religions tend to lean towards different models of the same concept, which is to meet someone you think is hot who apparently also thinks you are hot/interesting as well. I currently favor Mutual over the other apps, but that has little to do with user experience, design, or algorithmic qualities. I prefer it because it seems to have more girls that I am interested in that match with me. It’s that simple. And if a better app comes out tomorrow and all the cuties in town jump ship, I’m sure I will be there.

We could argue over the pros and cons of online dating ad nauseam, but the point is (at least for me) that it’s another way to meet someone. It might encourage vanity, it might objectify the opposite sex, it might promote promiscuity, and it might retard emotional growth. But all of these maladies existed pre-internet and will continue on until the planet has melted or imploded or been wiped away by space matter. So we might as well focus on the good of it—it enables the uber-busy to date more. It avails persons to you that you otherwise never would have come in contact with, and it allows the timid and the dating neophytes to work on their patter at any time. It gives hope to people that have lost hope. Sadly, there is no elixir we can sip that will rid the world of crappy people, and there is no formula or recipe for avoiding heartache. Dating sucks and always will, it is and always has been what we make of it. May we make diamonds where there was nothing but tiny particles of carbon in the earth’s deep, swollen mantle.