We’ve all experienced the fear of missing out.
Whether we’re watching the snap story of a party we’re too sick to attend, or clicking through the pictures of our ex’s wedding on Facebook, we’re all too familiar with FOMO.
It’s more a manifestation of anxiety than fear, actually. The knowledge that better, more exciting things are happening somewhere that we aren’t. We self-medicate with live-streamed events, corporate conference calls, pre-recorded TV shows because we just can’t do it all.
We develop most of our FOMO through social media, meanwhile making ourselves more isolated from one another. We’re settling for watching concerts online instead of actually seeing it in person. Thanks to Snapchat and thousands of fashion bloggers, it was possible to watch all of New York, Paris and London Spring Fashion Weeks live from the front row.
No, we cannot be in two places at once, and yes, the Internet accommodates our incurable need to feel present, but it’s really not the same.
It’s a vicious cycle, really. The more we miss out, the more we watch online. The more time we spend online, the more we miss out. If we worry about all the things happening in the world right now, we fail to appreciate what is happening in real life in front of us.
I have a very vivid memory of FOMO from this summer while studying abroad. My friends and I took a few days off to run with the bulls at the San Fermin Festival in Spain.
We had just arrived in Barcelona’s bustling airport terminal. I looked up at the screen over the gate, flashing with updates of departures and delayed arrivals. I was overwhelmed. Names of places I had never heard or even imagined I might see. How was it that I could only occupy one small fraction of the world at a time?
We bought train tickets to Pamplona and settled into some empty seats at our terminal. I continued to glance at the closest screen over the next few hours, ignoring the conversation amongst my friends to fantasize about the other places we could have been instead of this cold, dirty train platform.
I thought of other cities, other weekend trips and experiences of people around me, of all the strangers in all these places I’d never get to meet. Stories I’d never tell. My fear of missing our evolved into a deeply rooted need to go and see and touch and hear all the people and places and food I had yet to know and love. I felt like I simply had to have it or else I’d die right there and then.
Until of course, I realized we had missed our train. And then we really were going to die right then and there, at midnight in a cold, dirty Spanish train station, where none of us spoke Spanish and none of us had Wifi.
Except we didn’t die. We rallied.
We made it to our destination and ran with the bulls and experienced a very different emotion than FOMO. It was a blend of Oh-God-Why-Did-I-Do-This and Oh-God-I-Can’t-Wait-To-Do-This-Again.
Whether we call it adrenaline or audacity, none of it would have happened if I hadn’t snapped out of my FOMO-trance.
It is through this experience that I realized how destructive FOMO is, and decided it has no place in my life. I learned how important it is to be present in the experiences I’m currently having, or else I really will have no stories to tell in the end.
You can call me FOMO-phobic, but I’ll be too busy soaking up my last semester of college to care.