Fear of missing out is a social anxiety stemmed from the belief that others might be having fun while the person experiencing the anxiety is not present. It is characterised by a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing. – Wikipedia
Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, gives us the possibility to remain in touch ’24 x 7’, ever present. We are now, even more connected to each other in the new digital world. This exposure gives us access to information which is overwhelming! It throws up possibilities for each of us, in the moment, for the day, or ahead. And it is refreshed all the time.
FoMO (or Fear of missing Out) is a social anxiety and a growing phenomenon mostly amongst Youth – a compulsive concern that one is missing out on an event which has the potential to be very satisfying, worsened even further with presence of digital availability and social media as we can now see what ‘others are doing’ out there. One wonders, if one is possibly missing out on this? This could happen when you are invited to some event, but cannot attend, or when you are not invited to some place where everyone is going. Worse still, even if invited, you do not wish to commit, lest ‘something better’ comes up shortly.
What was a feeling common in the past, has now a nomenclature to describe it. FoMO is present mostly in Young adults, but it is present in other ages as well. It operates through the day, but mostly in the latter part of the day, and intensifies even further near the weekend. FoMO is not a temperament, a neuroticism, or a display of extraversion, it is a negative emotion to missing out – an affliction if you may.
FoMO ironically exists because as we have increased choices, we have fewer. We stay confused. What do we choose – this, or that, or the several others? We do know that from various Research studies, that too much choice inhibits decision making. FoMO delays making commitment, decisions taken at the last moment, all other inputs get deliberated till the last-minute, to check out if indeed there are better substitutes. Finally, when the time comes, one raises one hand and commits.
This makes ‘catching up’ almost happen by last minute choices, rather than a committed choice beforehand. Should I hang around with these friends Saturday night, or stay home and watch the Soccer match on TV? Or should I catch up with ‘xyz’ who I was meaning to for quite a while. All these choices are processed, furthered, and with tentative commitment. Inherent is the implicit, ‘I will be there, provided something better does not turn up before that’. It seems that optimising satisfaction is the crucible that drive such actions. To make a choice, and to live with the consequence both intended and unintended.
FoMO brings an added dimension – what if there were even better choices, I could have availed, which I did not, because I chose to commit too early on. The paradigm is that life is available with infinite possibilities, layers, and substrata of streams of opportunities, infinite rivulets, streams, tributaries of opportunities, all within a dizzy kaleidoscope and within reach to delight. To make an early choice, would be to collapse this rich unfolding bottomless well of opportunity, to remain immobilised to something, to be in a ‘stuckness’. If one does not commit, one lives in this multiverse of opportunities, in an infinite quantum superposition. However, once a decision is made the wave function collapses and one finds oneself in the desert of a single choice. To be in the realm of multiple choice, where anything is possible is denied once choice is made. Choice anchors you to a path: one of the many that is possible. Choice then is one ‘selection’ and a rejection to all other possibilities. And you better know what you are rejecting, before you do reject, and before you make a choice. Left with this, there seems no choice but to ‘wait it out’, to keep processing and till the final moment. We do recognise that we cannot have it all, but can we have the ‘best’ in whatever is available seems the obsession. FoMO speaks to the inner voice of who we are, what we truly wish for ourselves, our own best possibilities to be and to optimise the abundance of life. Can you visualise the impact FoMO has on workplace?
Deep within we search for bliss unconsciously recognising it is within us (Sat Chit Ananda) yet we pursue Happiness instead.
Bliss is not happiness, nor the absence of unhappiness. Be it known that the opposites exist together: darkness and light, knowledge and ignorance, happiness and unhappiness, friend and enemies, love and hate. Our desire for one, attracts us to its counter point. ‘Buy one, and get one free’- it seems. All sweet moments end with grief, and in our darkest hour, we see the hopes of light ahead. This unending choice to choose ‘one’ and reject the ‘other’ is a pattern repeated through our lives. The other will not drop, it is the ‘shadow’ that lurks with us always. For it exists in the other. In the seeds of immense doubt, there exists trust; and in the seeds of immense trust there exists doubt.
Yet we go on repeating this pattern away from choicelessness, hoping fervently that the next time around, our past experiences will re-emerge with the ‘hell’ taken out. That would be our heaven. That would be when we finally arrive. Yet, repeatedly, the experience is re surfaced, and with its inevitable drama. We imagine that the ‘other’ has found it. He /She must be happy, we suspect. We see large signboards while driving – ‘Buy the dream house, live your fantasy’. Picture of a welcoming spouse, a swimming pool, children in parks, etc. We cough up huge amounts, borrowed from banks, pay EMI’s: yet the happiness is elusive!
As Desmond Morris argues Happiness is not achieved when there is contentment, far from it. Happiness is a transient stage when ‘things are improving for the better’. The desire for happiness arises from the mind of the idealist. It is future oriented. It is a goal to be sought for. What is, is not good enough. What could be, and its possibilities is what is sought for. In this lies the ‘living trap’. We go on looking for the myth of happiness. What we have we do not value, and whatever is given is only transient, then it no longer satisfies. Nobody really seems to be able to give what we want, and we are not sure really what we want as well.
We recognise at some point, we are living a story tale we were once told: do this, acquire this, strive for this and you will be happy! Our life is our Myth we live; What we Have we do not Value, and what somebody gives us, we do not appreciate, for we want it is a little differently than the manner it was given. It is this restlessness that steers us to the path of finding one’s bliss within.
If you have encountered FoMO in self or others would you join me in the discussion. Please do not like and move on.