FOMO Epidemic: To Cure or Not to Cure the Fear Of Missing Out?

I’d never heard the term FOMO before I went to lunch with a friend of mine who encouraged me to start this blog. When I first heard it I thought he had said, “fo sho” or “phone me” or a number of other phrases that my brain pulled from my Rolodex of expressions. But no, it was “fear of missing out”.  He explained that he really hates not knowing about events going on or hearing that he missed out on an event. You have to understand, my lunch buddy is the kid that has a friend or knows someone almost wherever he goes, and is probably one of the most charismatic people I know. Thanks to him, a lot of people meet a lot of other people. He thrives on being informed and being able to let other people know what’s going on. He’s even gone so far to create a great website to help people with their FOMO: lasvegasysa.com. You should definitely check it out.

But after that lunch I went home and pondered and realized that FOMO doesn’t just apply to social events. A lot of people fear missing out on lots of different things in lots of different aspects of life. Here a just a few examples:

*A crippling disease or old age prompts the question: What if I miss out on seeing my grandchildren growing up?

*A soldier is deployed: FOMO on seeing their toddler take their first steps, seeing their oldest graduate high school, seeing their best friend get married, etc.

*A couple begins to date seriously but begin to wonder: What if I’m missing out on someone better? Hotter? Richer? If I get married right now what will I miss out on? That trip to Italy I’ve always wanted to take? Waking up in the morning not remembering that crazy party from the night before? What if they get in the way of my career opportunities?

*A teenager struggles making a decision where to go to college: If I move far away from home, what will I miss out on with my family and friends and goings on in the town? Or the opposite: I have to get out of here. If I don’t, I’ll miss out on opportunities A-Z!

*A college student discovers the World of Warcraft, often know as WOW: What if the rest of my buddies go online without me and I miss an opportunity for leveling up my healer to Level 70?! What if I could run into that jerk who owned me last time? I need revenge!

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Whatever the fear, or what it is the person fears missing out on, FOMO often has a paralyzing effect that can prevent a person from progressing in their lives, meeting people who could help them with their career, love life, self-discovery, and other things, or can cause them to become too dependent on the familiar in a way that is unhealthy. They may become hoarders, Momma’s boys, hermits, addicts, pansies, or whatever title you can think of that fear facilitates.

There are two other topics I’d like to focus on that I think the FOMO epidemic is running rampant in: Socializing and Technology.

1. Socialization. My lunch buddy and I had been talking about another type of epidemic we’ve noticed here in Las Vegas that I’m going to guess isn’t just an epidemic here: lack of good events in the valley that singles could and would go to.

We discussed two reasons for the epidemic causing lack of socializing and branching out of social circles:

a. Lack of knowledge – A lot of times there are lots of people looking for something fun and social to do on any given night, but they don’t know what’s going on. If you’re not in the “in crowd” who sends you texts and Facebook notifications/event invites, the likelihood of missing out will happen.

b. Distance.  And although Las Vegas isn’t gargantuan as far as cities go, it can take 45 minutes to get from one side of town from the other. DIstance is a major factor in single’s decision to attend an event.

And let’s be honest, distance is a major factor in a lot of decisions as far as people’s selection with where they will shop, eat, get gas, get a drink, choose to work, etc. It will often also dictate how often you see a friend or family member. Distance isn’t just about time, it’s about how much gas money you have to spend, wear and tear on your car (or if you even have access to one), etc.

2. Technology: The internet is full of articles and information on FOMO with a focus on cell phones, always checking it to make sure you didn’t miss a text, call, or notification. Smart phones allow you to use apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Instagram, LinkedIn, MySpace, tailor-made for FOMO. Now creepers have 24 hour access to doing what they love best: creepin’. Thanks to these websites, you will NEVER have to fear missing out on what’s going on in your family member’s or friend’s (or those people who won’t add you or secretly like to stalk) lives. You’ve heard it all before.

But the ironic thing about technology is that it’s often to blame for people missing out on the better things in life!

Face to face interaction has lost a lot of its value in this technology imbued day and age,and as a high school teacher, I’ve seen a lack of social skills and abilities when one must perform in something like an interview or having an effective and intelligent conversation peer-to-peer or peer to teacher/adult. I find I have to adjust a lot of my lesson plans to include more technology, whether it be using it more myself, having the students use it to respond, or using techy lingo. Although this CAN be effective, there are simply some things you cannot learn with technology, but a lot of people don’t want to believe that or spend time on it until they start internet dating someone and realize it would be better to actually meet them in person before running off to a drive-through wedding in Vegas.

As usual, I am not exempt from participating in the trend, though I certainly have my likes and dislikes with technology. Most people who know my pretty well know that I HATE, or as Jim Carrey’s Grinch would say, LOATHE ENTIRELY, talking on the phone!  I feel like I have a set of blinders on if I can’t see someone’s body language, and I don’t like talking into a machine.  I’m also not so great about texting. I’m usually not very faithful about it unless I am sitting around doing nothing – otherwise it annoys me how I have to stop everything and put everything down in order to respond to a text. I also have a career that is almost all face-to-face interaction, so that is probably to blame for some of that as well. Virtual teaching is the new and upcoming replacement for online schooling; I’d even been told about a job at a Virtual Academy, as well as a new Master’s program at the school I’d been looking into. But I’m not ready for that yet! However, those who know me also know I’m a lot better at expressing myself in writing, whether it be on the internet or in notes and letters, and like to update Facebook, so I do appreciate technology. I just believe that no matter what we do in life, we need to have a healthy balance!

So how do you solve fear of missing out without having people becoming completely reliant on websites, Skype, Facebook, FaceTime, walkie-talkie apps like Voxer and HeyTell, or cell phones (whether it be talking or texting)? A good solution may be striking a balance: using technology to inform, then letting the event be the means for social gratification non-hermit style. But that’s just one idea, for one problem within FOMO. Is there a cure for FOMO? SHOULD there be a cure? Does it even need a cure? Questions that remained to be answered, but if you take anything away from this blog post, I hope it’s one of these two things: Don’t let fear dictate your choices, and strike a good balance living in virtual reality and the real world. Just one more step towards a happy life!

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