Proud of Missing Out
While lazing by a pool for the fourth straight week on a tropical island, it hit me like a coconut falling from the palm tree above. I was jealous of my friends back home going crazy over a muddy music festival where no one showers for three days. I had the fear: the Fear of Missing Out.
FOMO, as it is affectionately shortened, is a term that has been hashtagged, researched by psychologists and utilised as a marketing tool by big businesses since its inception into the lexicon a decade or so ago. Though the idea of missing out on a worthwhile activity is obviously not new, the advent of Facebook and Instagram as bragging tools has notably altered how much of the world we want to see, and the way in which we go about it.
FOMO charters territory in a similar way to what YOLO did before, except the problem with FOMO is that it urges us to constantly compare ourselves to others. It creates a sense of dissatisfaction, leaving us unhappy with our status quo and unsatisfied with the time and place in which our body and brain is physically situated, while yearning after an experience somewhere else.
All FOMO manages to achieve is what bullies spend lifetimes attempting: the fuelling of egos at the expense of inspiring jealousy and instilling insecurities in others. It does nothing to encourage the creation of a better person or foster a sense of understanding, adventure or exploration, because it’s deeply rooted in the negative. And when FOMO combines with the reach of social media, the effect is heightened: the grass always seems greener, a mountain always higher and oceans more crystal clear, somewhere else.
And I loathe it.
For a few minutes on that pool chair, that fear took over and I desperately wanted to flee my oasis. Irrationally, I decided that the instant gratification I craved would come from flying home and scalping a ticket to join my friends. I don’t even like festivals… What was going on? I was in a foreign country having the time of my life and I wanted to trade it all for something I would have merely felt obliged to attend had I been home.
FOMO expects us to be everywhere at once. The problem is, if we are everywhere, how can we truly be anywhere? “Live in the moment” is not an Instagram quote you should be using if you’ve had to spend half an hour choosing the filters, emojis and hashtags to accompany your post. If your only reason for chasing an adventure is the fear of missing out on capturing that Snapchat, a worry that you will be left out of the group or even a feeling of inferiority regarding your preferred activity choice, then it is time to reassess what it is that you want to do for yourself and why.
Travelling has taught me that everyone sees the world differently and experiences it in a different way. Stepping back from social media, admittedly by accidental phone destruction, has shown me that I don’t need to have the “typical” experience for it to be worthwhile. My friends are still my friends. Truth be told, they are probably just as jealous of me being overseas as I am of them being together.
Scrolling through the festival photos of my pals back home, I decide that I am proud of missing out. I have lived in the moment. I’ve stretched my comfort zone. I’ve thrown myself head first into another culture: seeing, smelling, tasting and feeling things I never would have had I stayed in Australia, with the added bonus of showering under the stars every night.
So this is a reminder: it’s a reassurance that whatever you want from your experience is what you should get. FOMO should never be another tool to make you feel bad about yourself or feel disheartened about what you’re not doing. Travelling should be a selfish adventure, where your experiences are yours. So stay off the Instagram popular page and don’t let others’ experiences incite a fear of missing out in you. The more we concentrate on social media as a way to see the world, the more we forget to actually see it.
Cover by Aranxa Esteve