FOMO: Fear of Missing Out
By Jack Boger
Facetime is like sex: everybody wants it, but nobody wants to talk about it — at least in polite company. Who wants to be that poor kid on the outside looking in, face pressed to the glass, watching other people have all the fun and take those sweet pics that will quickly appear on Facebook the next day? (Or, with the advent of the mupload, pictures that will go straight to the lucky bastard’s wall — instant facetime!) But why is it that we have this intense need to be seen by others? At its core, our quest for facetime is rooted in a fear of missing out (aka “FOMO”) on having a good time. Confusingly, much of what we consider a “good time” is also spent convincing people that we are having the most fun while we are out, whether it is by commanding as much facetime as possible through self-advertisement on Facebook or by acting obnoxiously in public.
Sure, spending a Wednesday or weekend night in your dorm sucks. And yes, having photos of your friends pop up in your news feed while you’re slaving away on that paper you’d been putting off makes it worse. With the advent of modern social media like Facebook and — God save us all — Twitter, we are reminded of the fact that other people are doing things that seem a lot cooler than whatever we are doing every time we log on. It is extremely easy to become too fixated on other people’s lives at the expense of our own personal happiness. People around you are amassing facetime — you should be, too!
Our increasingly interconnected world enables us to connect with more people than ever before, but it comes at a cost. We seek quantity over quality, wanting to see and be seen rather than to be and to know. Facetime is, I think, indicative of this trend. We constantly check our phones to see if we received a new text when we’re with other people, and we pull up Blitz for the fifth time in the past five minutes (or maybe that’s just me?). With so much access to so much information and so many people, we become worried that we’ve made the wrong decision about how to spend our time. It is the FOMO that fuels our desire for facetime. We don’t want to miss out on a good time, but even more than that, we don’t want to be perceived as having missed out.
However, while social media has injected an immediacy to this fear of missing out, the phenomenon is hardly a modern development. I’m sure that people throughout history felt a vague and troubling sense of anxiety as they read through the society pages in their local newspaper, looking at the debutantes dressed in their swishing gowns, the foxhunts and holiday balls. They probably felt something akin to what we feel today when we walk past EBAs while a raucous semi is happening, or when we’re passed on Wheelock Street by a bus packed with formal-bound revelers. But now, instead of sometimes feeling that sense of missing out, it can seem almost constant, streamed in through the device of our choosing.
How can we avoid facetime in a community that values it so highly? It is important to stay grounded and understand that this incessant desire for facetime is irrational, and that fixating on acquiring the most facetime is unhealthy. The best way to escape from the onslaught is to unplug — both literally and figuratively — and seek stillness. For me, this has always meant getting out into the woods, where the silence and serenity distract me from the superficialities often seen in the Dartmouth social scene. Facetime is a fun and not unimportant part of Dartmouth social life, but it is in no way a be-all, end-all. And there’s nothing like staring into the faceless, ageless wilderness to remind me of that.