The fear of missing out, or FOMO is typically referred to as…
“a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.”
I’m sure the idea of worrying about what friends and associates are doing has existed on a smaller scale forever.
However, with the rise of social media, the word FOMO was actually added to the dictionary in 2013.
The effect of social media is a vicious cycle as it both causes anxiety and, from the point of view of a FOMO-er, is seen as the solution, which perpetuates the vicious cycle even further.
With a ‘Like’ or a ‘Share’ comes a quick fix of dopamine (the chemical in your brain that gives a fleeting feeling of pleasure).
Social media has, in the same breath, isolated our existence while expanding our sense of anxiety about the world ‘out there’.
But Facebook (or any social media platform) is not evil.
Relying on it for happiness, is.
Same with money, or anything – it is a tool.
If it helps you actually connect with people face-to-face, in the flesh, or helps you reconnect with long lost friends who would otherwise have been unreachable, more power to you.
In this sense, I am eternally grateful for Facebook.
For example, my wife and I found each other again after having lost contact for a decade.
Same with all my other friends who I knew from Brazil, during my time participating in a Rotary Youth Exchange.
Everything moves in cycles.
With the advent of the internet, people are able to connect more these days (for example, in the last two days, I’ve had separate video calls with both my Mum and Dad from half-way across the world – basically for free), yet we are still spending more time alone.
And it’s to the point where alone-time has become synonymous with feeling lonely.
It’s a misnomer.
There are plenty of people living in big cities, surrounded by millions of people, who feel lonely.
And there are plenty (albeit less) people who spend time alone, who are happy & fulfilled, and who, in moderation, go out to meet up with people who they actually like.
It’s like the difference between ‘being relegated to solitude’ and realizing we are all solitary beings, willing to connect with other solitary beings.
There is opportunity to understand and appreciate that, as subjective beings, we are the center of our universe.
I don’t mean how young children think that.
I mean in the sense of being able to actually make a difference.
In the case of an emergency, what do they suggest on plane flights?
When the oxygen masks drop down, put yours on before trying to help anyone else.
Grabbing moments of good-feeling solitude is your oxygen mask.
Your spirit yearns for it.
This doesn’t necessarily mean needing to ‘do’ something.
It could just mean sitting quietly, breathing.
Or going for a walk.
Or reading a book.
Or painting a picture.
Or writing that novel you were always going to write.
Or just lying with someone, hugging them (yes, I know, this isn’t technically solitude!)
Okay, for some, simply surrendering to good-feeling solitude might be easier said than done.
Letting go of this fear of missing out comes down to a realization:
If you are so bored being alone (and, hence, are always looking over the fence to see what others are doing), how can you expect anyone else not to be as equally bored with you?
It’s kind of a big ask, right?
When parents hear this from their children, their initial reaction is often to do something, suggest something, to give them a solution.
But, actually, kids being bored is healthy for them.
And not-doing can sometimes be better for parents.
It’s no different for us.
As adults, though, we often lose perspective.
Our place in history. Where we are. What we have. What opportunities there are.
To be interesting, be interested. Be curious about something.
Not in what others are possibly doing. In what you are doing, now.
So, to what are you going to pay attention?