Fear of Missing Out
According to Wikipedia Fear of Missing Out (or FOMO) is “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent". Now that may sound to some as a somewhat trivial concern. One that encapsulates the concept of “first world problems” and “Generation Me”. Yet for many, it is a genuine concern. “Fear of missing out” is a not too distant cousin of “fear of being excluded”. Something that is a common part of bullying culture. FOMO plays to human insecurities and we live in times where people feel increasingly vulnerable. If you want further evidence of the veracity of FOMO, consider how it is something that marketing departments now actively seek to play upon and uses for leverage. A recent leaked document for the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) outlined how they wish to streamline and revitalise the ailing E3 trade show. One suggestion is to make "exclusive/appointment only activations for select attendees who will create buzz and FOMO”.
For good or ill, it would seem that FOMO is now facet of twentieth century culture. Much like reaction videos, shit posting and the most intellectually bereft member of society being allowed on national television. Furthermore, I cannot claim to be impervious to this malady. I have discussed in the past how I was an avid “early adopter” of technology two decades ago. Something I cannot simply chalk up to just enthusiasm and zeal. FOMO did play a part in this. And then there has been times when fandom has become a job, rather than a leisure activity. I have a friend who still likes to remind me of the numerous times I got up at some ridiculous hour to watch videos that I had to return to Blockbusters, later that day. As a movie fan, it has always been difficult to try and keep up with all the new releases as well as older classics. It’s something I take a far more measured approach to these days but again in the past, FOMO was a factor driving the mentality that I had to “do it all”.
Recently, I took stock of my interests and pastimes. I decided to recalibrate my expectations and aspirations and that meant making some changes. Subsequently, I took to Twitter and spent some time reflecting upon who I was following. I believe the maximum number of people you can follow realistically is about 150. I’m currently over that number by a sizeable amount but I did prune about thirty of so accounts I was following. I based my decision upon how often an account tweeted and whether they were big on interacting with others. I did feel the occasional pang of guilt but ultimately you have to be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Following an excess of people on Twitter just leads to having your timeline swamped and increases the chance of missing something important amid all the white noise. There were also a few people who I couldn’t remember as to why I was following them.
I carried out the same exercise on Feedly and removed several blogs that didn’t seem to be producing any content on a regular basis. As predicted, the drop off rate after Blaugust was noticeable. I also had several blogs on my list that have been dead for a long time and it was merely nostalgia on my part keeping them there. I am also getting somewhat tired of commercial video gaming websites. They have a tendency to regurgitate the same company press releases where it is only the think pieces and long form articles that really interest me. So I have purged many of these. I’ve also shed some of the movie news websites I was following, as these aren’t really broad enough and tend to be too focused on “superhero” movies. And while I’ve been “downsizing” the extent of my online content consumption, I also unsubscribed from numerous YouTube channels. The commercial ones were exceedingly predictable and many of the “non-professional” content creators seemed to have ground to a halt. May be this medium is no longer the cash cow that many assumed it was. And then there’s my gaming “wish lists”. They got kicked into touch as well after a healthy dose of realism.
Here are some fun facts about the “average persons” lifespan. We spend about a third of our lives asleep. That’s 30 years plus. Joe public also spends about five years on the phone during the course of their life. A human brain can store up to a quadrillion separate bit of information in its longterm memory during our “three score years and ten”. Then add to that mix, time spent working, raising children and perhaps most importantly, procrastinating. The bottom line is you’re never going to fit in everything that you want to do. Nope. Not going to happen. The reality of the situation is that FOMO should be logically replaced by AOMO; acceptance of missing out. It’s a mindset I’ve eased myself into over the last decade. Pick what you want to do wisely. Be realistic and honest with yourself about what you can and cannot fit into your schedule. As for FOMO, isn’t it better to do several things well and enjoy them thoroughly, rather than attempting to do too many things at once and doing them badly? You’d think so. But then again people are seldom logical.