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?