We all have that one friend who has that National Geographic worthy Instagram page, filled with travel photos from exotic locations–names of which we can’t even pronounce. They’re usually seem alongside the acquaintance who seems to attend more parties and events in a month than most of us do in a year. With friends like these, it is easy to sometimes feel as if our lives are comparatively boring and empty, especially if we haven’t been doing much this vacation.
FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out, is precisely what its name suggests – the fear of missing out on a rewarding experience which others might be having.
In the process of knowing more about someone else’s life, we realise what we have been missing out on.
FOMO is one of the latest terms to join the long list of psychological phenomena and syndromes seemingly caused by the Internet Age. While social media has allowed people to share their lives with one another, oftentimes, in the process of knowing more about someone else’s life, we realise what we have been missing out on.
It is not easy to be content, especially in a university environment where there are simply so many things to see, do and learn. For example, we are constantly encouraged to become more productive and efficient, especially when issues like employability and job prospects loom on the horizon. But our desire to become better can fuel anxiety, which develops when social media portrays a seemingly perfect and enriching picture of other people’s lives.
The knowledge of what we’re missing out on creates the desire to not miss out on anything. But satisfying FOMO often comes with a hefty price tag. People with FOMO may find themselves spending time at places or taking up commitments they were never interested in, all because “everyone else is doing it.” They may eventually get their likes on Facebook and Instagram, but they may also have a less-than-satisfactory memory, and perhaps the missed opportunity to do something else they might have liked a lot better.
We should not fear missing out on popular experiences, but instead fear missing out on the chance to live life the way we want it to be.
Perhaps the solution to all this is not switching off social media (which would be impossible for most of us anyway) or pretending not to care, but to be aware of everything that is happening, and to know which places we really want to be at.
We should not fear missing out on popular experiences, but instead fear missing out on the chance to live life the way we want it to be, with memories we can hold close for years to come. The so-called “better lives” we see on social media are often a mixture of façades and ideals perpetuated by society, and it would be foolish to sacrifice our personal definition of happiness to fulfil the societal definition of perfection.
We could pack our schedules with the most popular events in town, but at the end of the day, after countless pictures and location tags, is that life really the one we want to lead?
What are your thoughts on FOMO? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook!