My definition of FOMO:
n. (“Fear of Missing Out”) : the fear that there is a party going on somewhere that you haven’t been invited to; the nagging feeling that everyone is having more fun and crazier adventures than you are, and probably together
I think this perfectly natural form of anxiety has gotten much, much worse with the invention of social media (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, etc.). Suddenly, there’s a platform where you can show off how much fun you’re having to all of your friends and acquaintances with merely the post of a dolled-up selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower, or at a super cool looking bar with all your hot new friends (see other annoying* ways to use facebook). There are also far more ways to be subtly validated (getting 30+ likes on your profile picture) and therefore far more ways to be subtly invalidated (nobody commented on my link!?).
* I’m not claiming that I don’t do these things, most people do. It’s the nature of the beast. Most of us also occasionally post unannoying things ;).
But, there are also versions of this phenomenon that have nothing to do with social media. FOMO is in the family of exclusion, loneliness, social anxiety, insecurity — these are all normal human things because we live in a society full of other humans and like to be accepted and belong. (I’ve been researching David Hume so I can teach my philosophy class this afternoon, so here are his thoughts on human nature and the need to be included, if you need some light reading).
This feeling has been on my mind a lot, because I’ve been thrown into a new group of people in a foreign country for a year. It’s easy to become obsessed with who’s forming relationships with who and what everyone is doing and with whom they’re doing it, because this community is tiny, and crazy adventure opportunities abound. I also find people and group dynamics pretty fascinating, and sometimes all I want to do is think about and analyze them.
If I really wanted to, I could also think about the things I’m missing out on in the States. A few of my best friends are all still at university being staff members together, others are spread out and finding jobs and hanging out with other former Whitties and going to Fall Release weekend in Walla Walla. There’s also my family, going to the Nutty Nutcracker in Seattle for Xmas and a family friend’s house for Thanksgiving.
The point of all this is: yes, all of us are always missing out on something that we’d like to do.
However, this FOMO lifestyle is unsustainable. All it does is make one think they’re never where the party is, which leads inevitably to the feeling of non-belonging, exclusion, and disparaging thoughts about oneself: the grass is always greener elsewhere.
So, here’s my new solution: be where the party is. Your own personal party, in which you find and do all of the things that interest you and invite others to come along if they’re also interested. This is a much more active/proactive response to FOMO, and that is sometimes the harder way to go when I wish things were easy. But I think the proactive method results in more moments of: I would rather be here right now than anywhere else in the world.
Ever since my semester abroad, this has been my gauge for whether or not I’m doing something worthwhile and fulfilling for myself. Especially in the past month, I have had a lot of moments of wishing I were able to be elsewhere — but it hasn’t made me globally doubt that I’m currently in the best place for my own personal growth. I don’t think you can ever always be certain 100% of the time that where you are is the only forever place for you, but the ratio of doubt to certainty can be low. I’m still striving for equilibrium, as are all the other people in the world (and especially in my age group).
But I mean, if we all were together doing the same crazy things all the time, we’d have nothing to talk about.
And the moments I’m not missing out on have been pretty fun. Let’s focus on those:
Here’s hoping that you, readers, feel like you’re where the party is. 🙂