This is the time of year when everyone gets frazzled, spreading themselves as thin as possible to maximize the amount of social interactions and parties they attend. As an indecisive person, I can appreciate the relief that comes from saying “Yes” to everyone rather than having to say “No” to a few. Some people grapple with the whole “the grass is greener” mentality that comes with being forced to choose between events (i.e. committing to one party, only to spend the entire time wondering how much more fun the other one is). It’s 2014, you’d think someone would have figured out how to be in two places at once by now. Until then, we’ll just have to cope with holiday season FOMO.
The idea of FOMO started a few years ago, and is defined by Wikipedia as “a form of social anxiety, whereby one is compuslively concerned that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying event.” The article goes on to explain that the root cause of this social anxiety is our strong connections to social media and technology. For some people, when their phone dies or they find themselves without internet access, it’s an incredibly stressful ordeal. They feel like they’re missing something…and it doesn’t really matter if they can’t articulate that “something”- the anxiety, for whatever reason, is still present.
The dependence and anxiety attached to social media and the desire to check in constantly has also been described as addictive behavior. Given the right situation, I can absolutely relate to the behaviors they describe- checking Facebook just one last time or Ok, I’ll set my phone down now- OH WAIT did it just ring?! Somewhere along the way, our brains are rewarding us for this behavior, so we keep going. Attached to FOMO is also the idea that if we turn down one invitation with a group of people, then they’re NEVER going to invite us out ever again, or have such a great time that they completely forget our existence. Is any of this rational? Probably not. But, it is happening.
To emphasize the irrationality of FOMO, there’s this video from College Humor from a year or so ago. It takes the whole idea of FOMO and turns it into something we can all laugh at (for those of us who weren’t laughing already).
Less than a year after the dawn of FOMO came JOMO, or the “Joy of Missing Out.” As the name suggests, JOMO is FOMO’s alter ego. It’s a night when, sure, you’ve maybe gotten a few invites out, but staying in and reading or binge-watching whatever you want on t.v. is more appealing, so that’s exactly what you do. Sans regret. JOMO is being comfortable admitting, “Yeah, I’d rather to hang out at home tonight,” and be cool when other people share pictures on Facebook (or wherever else). It’s about being confident that your decisions are bringing you joy, even if they aren’t “exciting” or “worthy” of a status update.
Along the lines of JOMO, this article argues that social media works best when it works to improve relationships among humans. Check out Tom and Donna’s interactions below. Sure, they’re a tad social media obsessed, but they’re having fun, even if they’re methods of interacting totally baffle Ron (and probably a lot of other people).
At some point, we have to take ownership for what’s going to bring us fear or joy. As Anil Dash puts it: “Being the one in control of what moves me, what I feel obligated by, and what attachments I have to fleeting experiences is not an authority I’m willing to concede to the arbitrary whims of an app on my mobile phone.” Unless you’re having an impossible time of trying to change your account settings or something along those lines, it sounds silly to utter the words “Facebook made me sad.”
In other words: it’s your life, do whatever you want (unless it’s illegal or otherwise jerky).