Down with a case of FOMO?

FOMO fascinates me. I remember my cousin introduced me to the term just last year, and for a moment or two I thought it was an actual scientifically claimed phobia. If you’re as naïve as I was then you’ll want to know what it stands for: Fear Of Missing Out.

When I learnt this, I laughed because I thought it was a comical term, but as the weeks went by I found myself saying it as if it were in the dictionary. Why was I saying it so much though? Simply because I saw this ‘fear of missing out’ everywhere I went. I saw it in my friends, in my family, and in myself.

It’s something that has developed as technology has, and the Internet hasn’t helped. If I miss a party, I get bombarded with pictures of it on Facebook, which somehow makes me feel like I’m missing out. The insane thing is that even when I have no desire to be at a particular place, with particular people, I can still feel a sense of FOMO because social media makes things seem far more fascinating than they actually are. It may seem quite desperate (which it is), but this irrational fear can be more dangerous than we think.

‘Teens and adults text while driving, because the possibility of a social connection is more important than their own lives (and the lives of others)’.

There is always a constant need for connection. This connection causes us to crave our virtual lives, and not feel content with the real lives that continue to exist regardless of whether there is a WiFi connection. Our virtual lives are the ones that we diligently craft online through the likes of Facebook and Twitter. They exist outside the world of tangibility, in a utopia of connectedness. We conjure up our idealised selves, defined by edited photos and funny (yet thought-provoking) status updates that we constantly deliberate over. We begin to pour ourselves into our virtual lives so much that we forget to disconnect for just one mere moment. We fear solitude, because we ‘need’ to be socially switched on in case we miss something detrimental, like a friend’s breakup, party, or lunch portrait.

Turkle describes it perfectly: ‘the moment that people are alone, even for a few seconds, they become anxious, they panic, they fidget, they reach for a device.’

My household doesn’t yet qualify for the National Broadband Network, however a 10-minute drive south from mine, you’d find my boyfriend’s house which boasts a connection to the NBN. He gets all the benefits of quick connection speeds, and loves it. He had a countdown for when his house could connect to the NBN. My parents and I must be aliens as we are not so entranced by the new network.

In my household live somewhere around 8 devices. I say ‘live’ because these devices truly do engage in life and with people just as much as I do. I have my own mobile and laptop, my mum has a mobile, and my dad has his mobile and iPad. We each have our own data plans, plus another that encompasses the shared home computer and, last and perhaps least, the almost antique landline telephone. Yes, we sit on our phones while attempting to have family bonding time, and yes, we find ourselves absorbed in our own devices, while propped in front of the television, while in the physical company of one another. We do not, however, have a distinct desire to get the NBN now.

My mum and I agree both ignorantly ask, ‘how much faster could the Internet possibly be?’ while my dad has probably already predicted the nature of our future family events with an NBN connection. After dinnertime he often pipes up saying, ‘How about that? I’m the only one sitting here not on my phone!’

We laugh, feel guilty for a moment or two, and then let our face fall back into our newsfeed in case we missed something in the previous 2 seconds. It’s funny how aimlessly we scroll through our newsfeeds, looking for something of worth. I think that is the real cruncher here: people feel like they’re missing out on things that have no significance or worth attached to them. We fear missing out on things we don’t like, or don’t even know about, and the worst part is, we don’t know why we feel that way.

Facebook and Twitter do not help this because they are platforms designed specifically for people to promote how good, and more importantly, how popular they are. They cause the ‘need’ for nonstop attention, and exist because people identify their worth with the amount of people they are in contact with. Here is the reason that I now, almost resent the Internet: If I can connect to this platform of self-assurance quicker, than why wouldn’t I? And thus the already apprehensive and addictive teenager is swept even further down the drain with the availability of the NBN.

The cure for a case of FOMO? ‘Ironically, it’s to ‘plug back into life’, and by that I mean real-time living in the moment. Be present with what you are doing now. Avoid digital distraction. Use your Internet and digital devices if and when you need to and not to allay an anxiety that you will somehow miss out.’

Don’t miss out on the real, more precious things in life, because you are too caught up in not missing out elsewhere.

References:

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  1. Retrospect and Reflection | Cheers to Creativity - September 29, 2014

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