FOMO: Fear of Missing Out

There is no shortage of people, books, movies, and advertisements around to remind us that we live exceedingly boring and unfulfilling lives. The model you follow on Instagram taking snapshots of them lounging on a balcony in Ibiza, the author extolling you to travel to every major European city to become more interesting, the Mercedes ad reminding you that the new A-Class model will give you a riding experience unlike anything you have ever felt in your 1992 Subaru. The modern world excels in reminding us at every turn of just how much we are missing out on.

Naturally, we begin developing, at first a suspicion then later a conclusion that our lives are intolerably bland, monotonous, and dull. Soon our dissatisfaction mutates into fear, fear that we will live and die unfulfilled, that we have only experienced at most, a second or third rate life.

Our fear of missing out arises because we have tacitly accepted a way of looking at the world that we may never have said aloud: the good life is one that it is the quantity of experiences that makes life worth living, not their quality. The more we have and the more we do, the happier we will be, or so the thinking goes.

It would benefit us to remember that we simply cannot have it all. For every choice we make, we disclose the possibility of making others. Life is, essentially, always a trade-off of possibilities. If you wear the blue tie, you simply cannot wear the green one (although, you will be better off not wearing a green tie anyway). Ties are one thing, but this holds true elsewhere. In entering a monogamous relationship, you disclose the possibility of being with other people. This is not necessarily oppressive; it is up to each of us to decide whether what we choose is worth all the things we can no longer choose as a result. But the cheater is one who suffers from a crippling sense of FOMO. They are unable to be satisfied with their choice because all they see are choices they can longer make.

Contentment is found by focusing on what we do have, rather than on what we don’t. Happiness is not reserved exclusively for the rich and famous. It is a blessing that can be as graciously bestowed as you enjoy a cup of tea with your grandma as it can enjoying a party with celebrities. We would benefit by reminding ourselves that obscure books can be more beautifully written than New York Bestsellers, that a quiet walk along a local lake can be just as enchanting as the cobblestone streets of Paris, and that talking to a child may be infinitely more interesting than talking to a model with millions of followers.

We will find contentment when we stop comparing one experience with another. Anything in life, from staring at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre to staring a tree in your backyard can be immensely gratifying if we take the time to appreciate it. The point is, it is not things which make life worth living, it is our attitude that does.

With patience and a mind no longer comparing one thing with another, we will find the flutter of a butterfly through our bedroom window the most mesmerising of experiences we could have, and will therefore, not feel like we are missing out on anything.

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