Technology has created a glut of new words and expressions. It also has “repurposed” old words; a mouse is no longer just a rodent in my basement. A crash is not a vehicular accident, a chip is not just used for scooping up onion dip and a pad is not just a monthly required feminine product.
Electronic communication has also introduced us to a wave of new acronyms. LOL, ROFL, OMG, BRB were sprinkled through our e-mail and now are a standard in texting. Those initialisms (another new word I recently learned) have entered into our face to face conversations and are a part of our lexicon. Since I don’t Tweet, Snap, Facebook, I admit I am lagging in current vocabulary updates.
Then an acquaintance confided she attends church weekly because she has FOMO. For those of you who are, like me, lagging in social media jargon, I will decode. FOMO refers to “Fear of Missing Out”. It is used most frequently by teenagers posting on social media in response to social events. For example, “I am going to Shania’s party even if I don’t want to ‘cause I have FOMO.” That struck me as something to ponder- do we attend events because we want to, or because we are afraid we will miss something?
Honestly, I don’t think I have ever consciously done something because I was afraid of missing out. (I did consider going to Woodstock, maybe because of a teensy bit of FOMO, but ultimately made another choice.) So, I dismissed FOMO without much thought. This is a young person’s social/social media issue, I thought. Not relevant in my life. Unlike Quinoa-now that’s something I have added with gusto.
Still, the idea of “missing out” intrigued me. So I took FOMO to my Mothers Group. These are women around forty in the throes of raising young families. They are struggling to balance the professional lives, kids, family obligations and still make room for their own interests. I was surprised that they had not heard of FOMO as they are all techno wizards (my assessment), but they did not dismiss it. In fact, they ran with it.
FOMO, they nodded. YES. The women who co-parent talked about FOMO as it related to shared custody; when their children were with their fathers, these women had FOMO and sadness. Those who worked full time felt they were missing important milestones in their kids’ lives. They had FOMO and Guilt. Declining a job promotion or buying the new house brought FOMO and regret. FOMO was everywhere is their lives and seemed to be part of their drive.
Clearly, I was too quick in my original assessment of FOMO.
Next, I took FOMO and introduced it some of my older clients. “FOMO” they nodded. I work out and eat healthy because I have FOMO. I want to live as long as possible and not miss my kids’ weddings and having grandchildren. I want to move to a warmer climate, but I will have to move away from the children and their families. I want to travel more now while I am healthy. I want to go back to school when I retire. I want to go to Italy when I have enough vacation time. I am saving for a Cruise to Alaska. It turns out that bucket lists are really FOMO for seniors.
And like a chiropractic adjustment, FOMO was repositioned in my brain.
Do we all have some FOMO?
Maybe FOMO and its interpretation is age related. Recently, I had to decline an invitation to an art exhibit and I was sad to miss it. Is that FOMO? No, I actually think that is simply disappointment.
FOMO feels anxiety driven; more of an urgent choice; Fear is, after all the first word. Can acting on FOMO lead to let-downs and regrets? Or prevent them? Would it add to our appreciation? When we make decisions based on FOMO, are we more likely to make healthy choices?
Clearly, I am unsure about FOMO except to recognize we may all have it without realizing it; we simply call it by a different name. I wonder, if we considered the role FOMO plays in our life, would it impact the choices we make?
© 2015 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986.She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.