May 30, 2012
Influenza, National Socialism and Menudo took turns ravaging humanity in the 20th century. Today, our inter-connected, acronym-obsessed world faces a new, somewhat less horrific, scourge: FOMO, you know it as the Fear Of Missing Out.
FOMO is not new, but recently it has spread like cholera through a Haitian refugee camp, infecting all ages and creeds that do nothing more than open up their Facebook feed. That restlessness when you see a picture of your friends laying out on wonderful looking beach? FOMO. That urge to hurry through a conversation with the person in front of you, because there are just so many other people that you want to talk to? FOMO. When you sign up for 3 different events that all overlap in time? FOMO. Oh, are you all wound up because your business school classmates just checked into a recruiting dinner in Midtown? FOMO!
Next to the river of dick pics flowing through the interwebs, FOMO is the worst side effect of the digital revolution. Facebook gives a nice bird’s eye view into the supposed lives of our friends, frenemies, and other meaningless functionaries. While having obvious benefits, the downside is that these pictures, videos and checkins give us visibility into what people are doing and what we are not. Why am I sitting at a keyboard staring at Facebook, when John is doing backflips off a elephant in India?! He must be having more fun than me! I am wasting my life! I must ride an elephant…I must. FOMO!
FOMO induces a sort of attention-deficity disorder as people bounce from one activity to the next, from one day to the next night, in the vain attempt to ‘experience it all!’. Its hard to hang with the FOMO-infected, the conversation is usually vapid and often punctuated by interruptions to SMS and WhatsApp their next stop. If you suffer from FOMO, please slow-down and relax! Unless your name is Michael Collins and you are stuck orbiting the moon while your buddies Neil and Buzz traipse around the lunar landscape, you really aren’t missing much! Our paths are our own, and the quality, not quantity, of the moments along the way that matter. So just say no, and break free of FOMO.