It is a thing. A term, and a pretty common one lately: the fear of missing out, alias FOMO. The desire to be there where the important and fun things happen. The feeling of loss, because whatever we choose, we give up on countless other choices at the same time. Dwelling on the decisions we made in the past, while comparing our lives to others who made different decisions – or similar decisions, but earlier/later than us. Social media also has its fare share in this mess we call FOMO. And we all like to think we are above all this – or is it just me? 😀
What does the fear of missing out really mean?
Well, I’m not at all interested in anyone’s dinner posted to Facebook. I’m not envy about the new car they posted to their feed either, and I couldn’t care less about that concert or party they went yesterday. I’m good then, am I?
Actually, there is something that disturbs my satisfied tranquility. (Oh, I wish there would only be one thing, but let’s stick to social media for now.) So browsing through pictures from other people’s travels… while I want to visit all those places right away, or at least soon. I feel a bit miserable sitting in my ordinary chair in my ordinary room that definitely lacks the turquoise shades and chilled out vibes of tropical beaches. I’m also fully convinced that everyone else out there is having a great time at those great places.
Of course, I realize it’s not true. That sound part of my brain tries hard to convince me that the reality is different from the Instagram accounts of my favorite professional and hobby photographers. (And I probably follow way too many travel bloggers.) Still there’s this stupid feeling… the one you call FOMO, I guess. The evil little thing that whispers in my ears that I could earn my living while freelancing from a beach in Thailand. (Whatever freelancing means. But it’s definitely something cool, isn’t it?)
Our countless choices make us… unhappy?
Instead I live and work in Budapest. What’s exactly wrong with that? (I mean, if we don’t count the lack of tropical beaches and eternal sunshine. 😛 ) It’s not that it’s bad. It’s that there are so many other options. We’ve already spent a wonderful year in San Francisco with Csaba. Will we be happier if we moved back? Or maybe not there, but somewhere in America… or Australia? New Zealand? Singapore?
And what about my carrier? Will I be happier doing something else than coding? (I’m a software engineer, in case you don’t know.) What about being a writer? Photographer? Journalist? Psychologist? Tour guide? (Traveller – is there really such a profession?) These are just some of the things and topics I’m interested in.
And the truth is, with every decision I make, I give up on all the other choices. The world offers a breadth of experience. But it looks like more choices is not what makes people happy. Yeah, psychologist have already figured it out. But who wants to believe them when we are so obsessed with all the choices we can make?
Still, we can’t be happy while constantly looking back, thinking about all the other possibilities that might have turned out better for us. To make things worse, we compare ourselves to others. We are so afraid to not miss any experience, that we don’t realize we miss them all, because we don’t experience anything fully.
What’s the solution?
However, we need to realize that even though it seems we have endless opportunities, it’s a lie. It’s just an illusion. I can’t be at 10 different places at the same time, I have to choose one. I can’t follow more paths at the same time, I have to choose one. Though I can dream about countless different versions of my life, I can only live in the present – or don’t live at all.
I don’t think I need more experiences. I rather need my experiences to be more meaningful. I rather need to be in the present to cherish them. Though it’s good to have dreams, I rather need to actually live more. Because there are so many things in my life that I can be grateful for. Simple joys that I miss because I’m so busy dreaming.
Commitment makes you free to be happy
Getting committed to something doesn’t only mean giving up on all the other options. It also means an opportunity for a deep, enriching, fulfilling experience. Because I can only take advantage of an opportunity, if I commit myself to it. I need to be present, I need to invest my time and energy into it. That’s what makes it meaningful.
Freedom and all the different choices are not the problem here. But one should grow up to be truly free.
What do you think?