On the Fear of Missing Out…

FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out, is not a new concept, but has become somewhat more recognizable in the contemporary age, now that we know a little bit too much about everybody and can see where they are and what they’re doing at every given moment.

You probably already recognize what FOMO looks like: everyone is on their phones instead of enjoying the moment, always talking to someone who isn’t there, running from one event to another – three weddings in one day, anybody?

But what about the losses caused by this resolute desire not to miss out on anything?

Let’s take a look at Angela.

Angela seems to know everybody. She has a lot of friends. She is also always with someone. This is why Angela is never on time. She arranges events back-to-back, and if there is a half hour to spare in between, she squeezes in an impromptu coffee with one of her many friends. Angela also always cancels on plans when she finds something better to do. She is very uncommitted. When she does show up, she always leaves early because she has somewhere else to be. She spends her time clicking away on her cell phone and picking up calls. Every time we speak, she has a new job, and is talking to a new guy. “Why settle?” Angela asks. “You might find someone even better!

As her group of friends ages, many start getting married and having children. Many make their way up to excellent fulfilling positions. Many own businesses, property, and other investments. When Angela invites them over, they show up late, leave early, or even don’t show up at all. “People got arrogant” Angela complains to me… “they think they’re too good to even come to my party!”

Angela doesn’t make the connection. She doesn’t see that her friends are simply fed up of dealing with her FOMO and, consequently, her inability to commit. By always treating everyone like an option, Angela inadvertently became no more than an option herself. She is surprised when her friends confront her and list out all the times she missed out on and all the important events in their lives that she appeared to not care about. “But I always tried to be there for everything!” She exclaims, disarmed. She does not even realize that, by being everywhere, she was nowhere to be found.

Chasing after everything in order to avoid missing out on anything is paradoxical: we seek to prevent opportunity costs, but only end up robbing ourselves of meaning. What is a greater opportunity cost than that?

Can someone who is never there for anyone or anything really complain when they are left alone in the room? Not really.

Make a commitment and stick to it. If something else comes up, even if it seems more fun or exciting, say “I will come if, and only if, my commitment to my first friend is completed at a reasonable hour”. Do not ditch and run for the next event for fear of missing out, because ultimately you will miss out on so much more!

Make a commitment. Be present. Treat others as you wish to be treated. And most importantly, do not double book! It’s just rude.

And remember… we design our own luck!


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