Why Travel Hasn’t Cured My FOMO

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.

Missing out on school events due to chicken pox

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 in 2nd grade – I missed out on some big announcement

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.

Capturing everything in writing or photos – a sign of FOMO?

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.

Keeping an eye on the neighbors, just in case something is going on

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.

I wouldn’t let grandpa have any fun unless I was in the middle of it

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.

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21 thoughts on “Why Travel Hasn’t Cured My FOMO

  1. Camels & Chocolate

    YES! Every day, every second of my life. I’m also that person who checks her iPhone when she wakes up to pee at 3am. Always.

    And being “stationary” while all my friends travel and do fun things has given me the WORST case of FOMO! My solution? Social media cleanses…rare, but then I don’t feel so bad about (or for) myself =)

    Reply
  2. Michael Miller

    Yes, I find myself checking the news and websites several times a day, in fear of “missing significant input”.

    BTW – your second grade picture – is that taken at the Landing in Jacksonville?

    Reply
  3. Bethany ~ twoOregonians

    Oh, so true. I can totally relate. In childhood, I couldn’t ever fall asleep on long family car rides because I was afraid of missing something exciting (you know, like a pit-stop for candy at the gas station).

    These days, it’s a challenge for me to have the tools to be so connected and yet adhere to self-imposed limits. (And they have to be self-imposed…unless the wifi’s down…which brings another set of issues.)

    Too, there’s the limit of *caring* which is also hard to define. I have the FOMO on friends’ lives. The more people I meet and care about, the more I’m interested in keeping in touch with them. It’s hard to know how and when to say goodbye to those connections, but it’s literally impossible to stay in touch with everyone, all the time.

    I have no answers for you ;) just an amen!

    Reply
  4. Alex

    “I didn’t necessarily want to do any of those activities, but I didn’t want to miss out on them either.”

    YES. I do this ALL THE TIME when traveling. Do I really truly enjoy hiking? No, but if Lonely Planet tells me to hike the volcano, I hike the volcano. Same with a million other things… and of course in the end I’m glad I did them. But sometimes I’m envious of those crazy people who do…. only the things they really want to do!

    Reply
    1. Angie Away Post author

      I really think it’s FOMO that makes me do most of the things I do… I just can’t bear the idea of missing the top activities. And I’m like you – I don’t care for hiking! But God knows if it’s THE thing to do, I’m doing it.

      Reply
  5. Jennifer

    My name is Jennifer and I am a connect-aholic. I know it’s bad but I sleep next to my iPhone. I check what’s happening in the world when I wake up in the middle of the night. I fall asleep by perusing Twitter. I have to check in the first thing when I wake up.

    I need help!

    Reply
  6. Abby

    Yes!! Although I have watched it morph over the years. I remember in grad school when my “fomo” switched from being unable to miss a single party to not caring at all — because I had too much to do during the day. Strangely, 9/11 had the reverse effect on me. I was working as a reporter in NYC and learned that even I can be too much in the thick of things. It changed my whole life! I soon got out of news and out of the big city. Although the slowing down didn’t last long… Great post — love the vintage pics!

    Reply
  7. Emily in Chile

    I’m pretty sure there’s no cure. I occasionally take a day off from the internet, but I end up paying for that break by having even more to catch up on when I get back online!

    Reply
  8. Stacey

    This couldn’t have come at a better time, I’m in Vegas at the moment and decided to not pay for wifi at the hotel so I could truly “soak up” the place, and disconnect for awhile. I lasted just over 24 hours.

    Although I try to justify it with “I’m on the other side of the world so I need to make sure everything’s ok at home”, I really just don’t want to miss out on anything that could potentially happen.

    It is worrying because I feel like I do miss out on what’s going on around me because I’m always glued to my iphone! I’m glad a lot of other people feel the same!

    Reply
    1. Angie Away Post author

      Oh yes, it would appear there are many of us on the FOMO bandwagon. Maybe we should go to rehab? I bet we could get a travel blogger discount… then again, we’d probably turn it into a conference with a hashtag and everything.

      Reply
  9. Brooke vs. the World

    Facebook and social media sites definitely add to it, because that’s where everyone is bragging about all the cool stuff they did while you were sleeping. I find it stressful to keep up, but as a travel blogger… you kind of feel like you have to! Ugh. It’s my absolute joy to put myself in a place where I can’t even think about updating social media or worrying what others are doing — like in the Outback where there just simply IS no internet or phone reception ;)

    Reply
  10. Vicky

    Love this post! I definitely have a serious case of FOMO! I think it got to be really bad in college where I seriously felt like I would miss out on the best night of my life if I didn’t go out with my friends even one time. Since college it’s been considerably getting worse! I feel like now I can’t even confidently make a decision between picking 2 activities for fear of the added fun I’ll be missing out on if I pick the wrong one! Seriously it’s a problem. And the whole being connected thing is as well. When I had my blackberry with a data plan if I woke up in the middle of the night at like 4am I would HAVE to check my email — completely unnecessary. Now I don’t have a data plan on my phone and while at times it’s annoying it is nice to have that break and know that I cannot just check email social media every few minutes and waste tons of time doing so!
    Vicky recently posted..Best Travel Credit Cards 2012My Profile

    Reply
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