Urban Dictionary defines “FOMO” (or “fear of missing out”) as “the fear that if you miss a party or event you will miss out on something great.” It’s like regret on steroids. You don’t necessarily want to go to the thing, but you don’t want to miss the thing because what if something amazing happens at the thing and you’re the only person on the planet who missed it?!
I’m human, so I understand the sentiment to some degree. So many of us want to know everything and be everywhere because there’s a lot happening in our world right now, and thanks to social media, we know about all of it — in great detail. There are parties and gatherings and rallies and fundraisers and protests and marches.
And yeah, it does suck to hear that, while you skipped out on girls’ night to catch up on some sleep, your gaggle of friends ran into Justin Timberlake (or Trudeau) at the food court and they all threw back Orange Julius together like they were college freshmen doing Jäger Bombs.
You missed out. And missing out on something big like that sucks so much that it can create a fear of missing out on more things in the future, which can grow and fester like a social anxiety boil because you really don’t want to miss out like that again.
So, gross analogy aside, I understand FOMO.
However, there is a crotchety old cat lady who yells at kids to get off her lawn living inside of me, and it’s her I identify with the most when someone expresses feeling FOMO. My old lady spirit would like to say, “Knock that shit off.”
My issue is not with the surface-level understanding of FOMO. It’s not even with the silly acronym-turned-word. My issue is what’s lying beneath the idea of missing out on something: discontent.
Say you’re invited to a party, but ya know, you’re just not feeling it. It falls on the night you wash your hair, or catch up on Superstore, or someone’s going to be there who you don’t really want to see. Like an adult, you politely decline. But then you start to wonder if something awesome will happen, if some life-altering story will emerge from this event, and suddenly it’s FOMO time.
Maybe you should just suck it up and go? You could stay for just a little while. You don’t want to seem rude. You’re not that tired, and your hair can wait until tomorrow if you wear a top knot.
That worry you’re feeling? That concern you’re missing out on something? What that really adds up to is that you’re discontent with the choices you’ve made. It means part of you is all “yeah, look at me being mature and doing what’s best for me and my life,” but another part is saying, “Oh shit. What if I’m missing out?”
The issue is that you don’t know if something awesome will happen. You can’t know. But what you can know is that your hair has so much dry shampoo in it that it is starting to flake off, and you’re three episodes behind on The Walking Dead, and you’re really peopled out and just need a break.
Instead of being overly concerned with what may or may not happen, why don’t we all decide to focus on, and be content with, what is a sure thing. What’s certain is that many of us are going way too fast in life and doing too many things and burning ourselves the fuck out because, as Steven Tyler sings, we don’t wanna close our eyes, and we don’t wanna fall asleep. (Sorry for that earworm.)
Let’s slow down. Let’s be content with our decisions to not do everything all the time. Let’s find peace in the fact that by not going to or doing everything, the things we do take part in are that much more special. We’re not in high school anymore, and life does not revolve around whether we’ll miss out on something monumental if we skip a dance or football game. We are grown-ass women who need to do what’s best for us, in any given moment, and not let our anxiety rob us of our contentment.
So fuck you, FOMO. I’m not worried about missing out on anything except maybe an afternoon nap tomorrow.