A few days ago, I got a message on WhatsApp and it got me thinking. Actually, the message pushed me into deep introspection. It read:
“Do you know about FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)? Psychologists coined this term recently… It is that feeling when someone else is having more fun or doing something better than you. This fear is often aroused by seeing exciting posts on social media of what other people do!”
Every word of the message stood true. It was so real for me that I had to deactivate my Facebook account. In the crowded social network, with millions of updates every day, I am certain no one would have noticed that I was gone, barring a few close friends. Even my blog goes unnoticed without Facebook. But since I blog at tortoise’s speed, it didn’t matter much. But I must say, after I deactivated my account, a good 40 per cent of my brain got vacant and I enjoyed the emptiness. It was up to me to fill the space with knowledge, books, news, music, talks, or simply nothing.
The term “Fear Of Missing Out” has been in existence since quite some time now. I am not suggesting that I have a chronic FOMO, but my condition did get severe at some juncture. I forwarded the above message to another WhatsApp group where my close-knit circle of friends and I joked about how we have FOMO syndrome when we compare our lives. Everyone who received the message affirmed that they are suffering from it. It didn’t make me feel better because the comfort of being in the herd was neither soothing nor an antidote to FOMO. Before talking about how FOMO can actually impact and what we can do to fight it, I want to throw light on the factors that lead to this condition.
When something like Facebook mediates our lives with its inherent energy and power, and changes the mathematics, it leads to some kind of imbalance. It has become an integral part of our lives. Check-ins, status updates, opinions, counter opinions, virtual fights and abuses, etcetera. We have walls to be climbed and browsed, and timelines to stalk. It is definitely nostalgic when old photographs and memories resurface, only to remind us how our opinions and appearance have evolved over time.
Facebook gives us a free peep into other’s lives. Everything is glittery and you feel happy until you see something posted by someone – something that you have been wanting badly, and all you can do is check the update and move on. And when these updates increase exponentially every day, is when you are most prone to succumbing to the first stage of FOMO. The fear of missing out is the worst possible fear. Whether you really need the thing you are missing is secondary. You may need it but not so badly. But the intense feeling that surrounds you whenever you open Facebook is sometimes irreparable. And yes, I boldly admit that I am a victim of FOMO. There always comes a stage in life when it attacks you head-on without giving you a chance to fight back.
I deactivated my account for a month and felt serenity. With less buzz around me, I was relaxed. I could read more and be creative. Before the advent of Twitter, FB and other social media platforms, we were less exposed to others’ lives. It was easy to live and let live. But now, FB is the only place where people want to discuss their life events, dump hatred or dish out love. I am not saying it is wrong. I am just saying it is tough to not get affected. In those moments, when you see an album of pictures, something that you’d wished for yourself whole-heartedly, you feel slightly unhappy. At times, your desperation for something gets directly proportional to how much others are achieving it. It is like Murphy’s Law!
When I activated my account, there were many who said they were glad to have me back. It did feel wonderful. I don’t channel any hostility on FB. It is a great medium for people like me, who wish to write and express. It gave me some wonderful memories and lasting friendships. The only problem that the best of us face is FOMO! It does attack you once a while, when you are putting all your efforts for something and longing for the same and not getting it. A psychiatrist may articulate your thoughts, but self-help does work wonders. In my case, deactivation helped a lot. I am back after a break but would deactivate it again whenever I feel the need to. It is therapeutic. I suffer from bouts of FOMO, now and then, but I have learnt to steer my JOMO – Joy Of Missing Out. I am happy reading a book or watching something. I love surprising people, exercising and doing anything that erases FOMO.
Have a good day!