Illustration: Brian Cronin
OMG, do you have any idea what you're missing right now? Have you checked Facebook in the last two minutes? If so, you know that everyone (and by that I mean everyone but you) is out there totally rocking life. Your BFF (that is, your former BFF) and her new BFF are trekking through Ladakh. Your college roommate has built an Internet empire. Your cousin's at a wacky costume party, LOL—no, ROFL! Right now, everybody out there (except you) is whirling ravishingly through the good life! Together! In flash mobs!
What R U doing?
Probably nursing a massive case of FOMO. That's what they're calling it these days: FOMO—Fear of Missing Out. Kids use the term to express concern about missing parties featuring phosphorescent pacifiers and music that can be heard all the way from Neptune. Well, kids, I've had FOMO since before you got your first, pediatrician-approved pacifier. As a child I hated sleeping for fear I'd miss something—my siblings' conversation, a bat invasion, the apocalypse (yes, I was an anxious kid). In adolescence I read obsessively, desperate not to miss any interesting facts about the world. As a young mother, I fretted about missing time with my children (when I was working) or time at work (when I was with my children). And right now, a menopausal-nerd version of FOMO is whining in my ears, "What are you doing writing? You could be decoding dolphin language! Or practicing the glockenspiel! Or making stained-glass mosaics!" I suspect FOMO will try to follow me to my grave. Which probably won't be nearly as happening as all the other graves.
The FOMO PlagueThe social media world that named FOMO has also made it an epidemic. It's hard not to develop this 21st-century form of anxiety when one glance at your smartphone reveals a thousand awesome things your friends—and enemies—are doing. I'll bet the thought of making energy-generating sculptures out of used diapers never even crossed your mind until your ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend posted a TED talk of herself doing just that, and FOMO slapped you right across your lazy, uncreative face. Thanks, Internet. Thanks a lot.
Now, you may argue that FOMO is healthy motivation. But the first of FOMO's four words—fear—is the opposite of healthy. Fear can get us moving, but never happily. Living with constant or recurring fear, from post-traumatic stress to paranoia to FOMO, doesn't improve life quality; it just makes us haunted and tense, and shrivels our internal organs until they resemble, in size and functionality, pork rinds. So our task is to live in a FOMO-plagued world without catching the virus.
Here are three strategies for doing just that.
We Hear You!