A new epidemic: FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

FOMO strikes me as an epidemic, fed by today’s very (read ‘overly’) connected world. People are invited to do this or that, or are at this or that place, but then they’re fretting over whether or not they should have accepted a different invitation, gone and done something else, and so it goes on… Exhausting, and, in fact, rather self-deceiving if you ask me.


Learning to live in and savour the present moment is widely accepted as a good thing, but no way that’s going to happen if you’re always concerned that you’re not ‘where it’s at’. Tobias Jones, in speaking about globalised universalists, argues:

“As with television, the universalists stretch our horizons so far that we forget where we’re from and where we belong. So we’re all paranoid that we’re not where it’s at. We keep travelling.” (Utopian Dreams)

Permit me to take what he’s said (which I agree with 100%) and amend it here and there so it applies to a smaller-scale context, which is what most of us face in our day-to-day lives:

Television and mobile phones and social media and apps and online news stretch our horizons too far so that we forget or undervalue where we are at and what we are doing. Consequently we are all paranoid that we’re not where it’s at. We keep flitting about, trying to remain ‘unfettered’, trying to be in the right place at the right time so that we won’t miss out.

Hence a society peppered with folks who clearly suffer from FOMO.

I miss people just committing. I don’t like this keeping-your-options-open mentality. Knowing that one can communicate and (re)arrange plans at the last second, people have lost the ability – or perhaps willingness – to organise their lives and say, ‘Why yes, 3 weeks from tomorrow I am free and I would be delighted to join you for sun-downers on the beach.’ This ‘No, I just wanna first see if something better will pop up’ (which of course is not actually said but the message is still heard loud and clear) is terrible.

I don’t really enjoy the company of such folk – you can tell who they are, because you quickly get the sense that they’re not settled in your company (individually or as a group), that their minds are on other places and other people. Call me self-obsessed, but I like it when I’m in the company of people who have a sense that I’m valuable and my presence is a good thing and not a hindrance. I don’t think that I hang around such people anymore – I did for a long time but I’ve learned to wean them out of my life. I think that, ironically, FOMOs never feel they’re where it’s at because they never let themselves be fully at any one place.

Choice is sometimes unhelpful. We can overestimate its value, because if we always have choice open to us we find ourselves constantly wondering if we made the wrong one, thinking about what could have been instead of what is. I’ll quote Jones again, because he’s very eloquent on the matter:

“Choice, once a promised land of individual liberation from fate, has turned out to be a disappointment […]. It means we mourn what we haven’t chosen rather than enjoy what we have.”

That’s a profound statement, and obviously has implications that go far beyond just that which I’m discussing in this post, but it certainly also applies to the issue encapsulated in this neat little colloquialism of FOMO.

One person at a time, starting of course with ourselves if need be, I think we should go retro and reclaim lives where we make choices, stick with them, and believe that wherever we’re at is where it’s actually at for each of us. Whatever anyone else may be doing right now, and whatever fun they may be having, I’m content with my ‘at’, which is in front of my computer, finding the words to share this diversionary thought …


If you enjoyed reading this, I think you’d also be interested in reading WWII, Socrates, Rwanda & personal boundaries.


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3 responses to “A new epidemic: FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)”

  1. Karen Vitler says :

    Briiliant piece!

  2. Karen Vitler says :

    I can think of people I know who are like this

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