Hi, I’m Helen, and I suffer from Fear Of Missing Out
Commonly known as “FOMO”, this condition affects roughly 1 in 6 young people (okay, I made that up. But it could be true). The signs are easy to spot. Do you find it excruciatingly difficult to turn down even the most casual of social arrangements? Do you dread hearing a second-hand report of what happened at the last social, or at so-and-so’s birthday drinks? Then I’m afraid you, too, might be a FOMO sufferer.
Although I believe that FOMO may have been latently affecting my behaviour for many years, it seriously began to rear its ugly head in my first year of uni. I was pretty much unaware of its existence until sometime during the second term, when my housemates started to notice a pattern. I was present at almost every house-night-out. I rarely missed a trip to the pub or the cinema. Hell, I could scarcely say no to so much as a shopping trip. When this was pointed out to me, I had a sudden moment of self-clarity. I hate missing things. Like, really hate it.
It turns out this is bad news for my purse. Money seems to trickle away very quickly when you’re agreeing to everything your friends suggest. I can’t say that I’ve improved at all since first year, either. As I write this, for instance, I am contemplating how best to negotiate my Friday night so that I can go out both for a friend’s birthday and for a LangSoc (English Language Society) pub crawl, even though they’ll be in completely different places. I WILL go to both. I’ve also just agreed to buy a ticket for a play in London in a few weeks’ time, despite having never heard of said play and barely being able to afford it, just because a friend asked if I wanted to go and it sounded like fun (and because Rupert Grint’s in it).
In that respect, FOMO can be great news for your social life. It’s kind of like being a Yes Man (or woman), isn’t it? If you don’t know what I mean by this, give the Jim Carrey film a watch. Maybe not a second watch… but anyway. As Carrey’s character illustrates, saying yes to everything can be wonderful. It can open up all sorts of doors and lead to a lot of good times. But it’s not without repercussions – energy levels and money supplies, in particular, get hit hard. Maybe I just won’t pay bills this term… they’re optional, right?
Those of you who know me will know that I’m into photos in a big way. In fact, it’s probably one of the main reasons I still have Facebook. As sad as it might sound, I LOVE logging in to see that I’ve been tagged in a load of new photos. I also take a kind of strange pride being the person who uploads all of the photos from the night before, much to everyone’s dismay. Whether they’re embarrassing, hilarious or actually rather sweet, photos are memories. I know that’s horribly cheesy and clichéd, but it’s true. Obviously actual memories are memories too, but there’s something quite nice about having a visual reminder to stick on your wall (be this your virtual Facebook wall or actual bedroom wall). However, when the photos go up from an occasion that I couldn’t/didn’t attend for whatever reason, I get a sort of second wave of FOMO. Maybe we should term this post-event-FOMO. It’s that strange twisting in your stomach you get at knowing that fun was had and you weren’t involved, which sounds awfully selfish, but I think we all get this feeling to some extent from time to time.
I also have a theory that food envy is linked to FOMO. Now, I know I’m not alone in experiencing this. Ever sat down for a meal, having ordered/cooked something perfectly nice, then looked across at someone else’s plate and felt even the tiniest wave of jealousy? Thought so. That, my friend, is food envy. We’re all guilty of it from time to time. This is why things like buffets, light bites and sharing platters are an excellent, excellent idea. As long as you’re not the “JOEY DOESN’T SHARE FOOD” type (please tell me Friends references are still relevant).
You’ll have probably realised by now that this column isn’t one hundred per cent serious. FOMO is, as far as I’m aware, not an actual medical condition. But it is a thing. At the very least, it’s another one of those annoying acronyms churned out by the twitter generation, for better or worse. I’ll say this for it though: it articulates a genuine feeling, and a common one at that, which was previously lacked a name.