According to recent studies*, FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out, is affecting more and more adults. Experts** suggest that social media may be at the root of the outbreak.
My FOMO History
I was diagnosed with FOMO before the condition had a name. When I was a baby, I would not go to sleep unless everyone else was asleep, too. If my parents were awake somewhere in the house, I had to be a part of it. No fun was to be had without me. I never missed school because I couldn’t stand the thought of anything going down without me there to witness, participate and tell the story afterward.
The condition continued throughout my youth and was aggravated by the fact that I was often stuck at home babysitting while my friends were living it up at the beach or Skate World. (My time as a skater girl was thankfully short-lived, much to the chagrin of my glittery Airwalks.) As an angsty teen I vowed never to miss out on anything once I was all grown up.
FOMO Turns Serious
Years went by and the FOMO continued. I managed it as best I could through college, but on Sept. 11, 2001, the news from NYC, Washington, & Pennsylvania turned my silly childhood desire to be a part of everything fun into a real, sincere fear that something terrible would happen and I would miss the details. I remember sitting at my receptionist job after class refreshing CNN every 60 seconds to see if there was any news about what happened. I was starved for information at a terrifying moment in US history, and that singular incident shaped the way I communicate and connect even now, 11 years later.
After 9/11 and on the very beginning of the social media wave, my FOMO manifested itself as a Crackberry addiction. At my first PR job in Atlanta, it was a badge of honor to be given a Blackberry, so I took mine everywhere, slept with it, etc. etc. I wasn’t nearly as important as my Crackberry lead me to believe, but it felt so nice to be respected! OR so I thought. All that Crackberry did was make me available 24/7. Even after my car accident in 2006, when all I could move was my thumbs, you can bet I was on my Blackberry checking in at work.
FOMO for the World Traveler
I assumed taking a break from my social media-heavy PR job in NYC would help me to disconnect from the wired world and to break my addiction to constant news updates. To be honest, it’s only fed the problem!
Now I have friends in every time zone and acquaintances on every mainstream social network. Wherever I happen to be in the world, I usually wake up for a quick check of my iPhone and a run through of messages on Facebook, Twitter, etc. What could be so important that I need to know about it at 3 a.m. in a tent in the middle of the Jordanian desert is beyond my rational comprehension, but FOMO makes me live like life depends on the iPhone, nonetheless.
When that darn FOMO gets to acting up, it’s an itch I have to scratch.
There is an upside to being a traveler with FOMO. FOMO makes me go out and climb skyscrapers and roll down hills in giant plastic bubbles and flip upside down in small planes. I didn’t necessarily want to do any of those activities, but I didn’t want to miss out on them either. So in some cases, at least for the purposes of being a good storyteller, FOMO has come in handy.
Before social media took over, I knew what my closest friends were doing and that was enough. I couldn’t possibly know what 1,400 friends were up to each day, so it didn’t occur to me to care. Now, every time I sit at my computer to work, I am barraged with images of gorgeous Southeast Asian beaches or Western-themed cowboy parties in Colorado or excursions to Iguazu Falls in South America. I experienced a bad FOMO flare-up a few weeks ago as TBEX12 was underway in Keystone. Having now met so many other travel writers and bloggers over the past few years, it took all my willpower (and my grandpa’s 70th birthday party) to keep me from booking a last minute flight and heading to the mountains.
Technically, I can’t be in all the places I want to be at once, but social media, my iPhone and a good WiFi connection make everything seem possible.
The Fear of Missing Out is so intense that I caught myself checking social networks & the news at least half a dozen times while writing this post. But why? I don’t even want to go anywhere! I am really happy to have this downtime off the road… but I still check, just in case there’s a Michael Jackson Thriller flash mob downtown or a last-minute press trip to Belize that I could hop on tomorrow or an amazing job opportunity that I must apply for.
Traveling was supposed to be the cure to my over-connected lifestyle and my FOMO. While it certainly hasn’t cured me, I’ve learned that when I’m where I want to be, there’s most definitely something else going on somewhere else that I really wish I was checking out. It can be exhausting, constantly searching for the next project or trip or activity, so despite what folks think, travel really isn’t the easy answer to every issue.
Perhaps the next wave of technology will include cloning, then at least some iteration of me will never have to miss out on anything again.
Do you have FOMO, too? Are you constantly connected? Do you think it’s a good or bad thing? Is there any cure?
*I didn’t actually consult any studies.
**Just my idea.