Posted 35 minutes ago to Instagram: a selfie of your friend with what appears to be a pristine, clear-blue water beach in the background. Her hair is in seamless waves and you can see the reflection of the perfectly ivory-colored sand in her sunglasses. The caption? “You wish you were here.”
You “like” the picture but grimace a bit at the boastful nature of the post, so you close Instagram and open Snapchat to view a 10 second video of a friend at that concert you had meant to buy tickets for but never got around to. You even put it on your to do list – but you were waiting until your next paycheck to make the purchase and somehow among the stresses of day to day tasks – you forgot. The venue looks packed, but you see where your friend is in proximity to the stage – so close they can see the sweat dripping off of the artist. You send a snap back to your friend, poking fun at your mundane evening, and it is light-hearted, yet you ultimately feel a sense of remorse at how you’re sitting on the couch on your Friday night, “liking” the photos of your friends having a good time. The regret is painful, but familiar – and while you feel like you’re the only one of your friends who is missing out – or more accurately fearing missing out – you’re not.
The term has been coined “FOMO”, fear of missing out – I was first introduced to this life-defining concept over a year ago and what can I say? I’m just as guilty of it as any other millenial, thrill seeker, adventurer, or human being who realizes that life, while it is technically the longest thing a person can do, is fleeting, oh so fleeting. We naturally have the overwhelming urge to make the most out of our time, and out of our lives – but we are often these sentiments are mostly just that – feelings instead of actions. We see what others are doing, feel bad about it, and then waste time fearing missing out rather than focusing on what is directly in front of us.
It’s easy to wish you were doing something, to wish you were somewhere else, to imagine what you would be doing if certain obstacles were not in your way – the desire is purely human nature. But what makes millenials the “FOMO” generation is our love-hate relationship with living vicariously through others, namely our friends and acquaintances.
The difference between our generation and our parents is the fact that we were raised with opportunity. Our parents found a great value in the house that they worked for and the things that they were able to buy as a result of climbing the ladder and making something out of nothing – millenials find less value in this, we had the privilege of being born into it. For us it is less so about the cars, and houses and more of a fixation on new experiences, especially those that will impress others.
FOMO, while coined by millenials, is definitely not a new idea – but the difference is, us 20- somethings feel it on such an escalated, unprecedented level. Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook – we are constantly bombarded by pictures, videos and status updates letting us know exactly where are friends are, what they are doing, but more specifically what we aren’t.
We could ignore them, turn off our phones, choose to turn the other cheek and feel contented with our daily habitual lifestyles, but instead we can’t keep from opening social media over and over again- repeatedly catching a glimpse of what others are doing.
The truth of the matter is that approximately three out of four millenials would rather spend their money on experiences and live events rather than tangible objects, and nearly 79 percent of us believe that shared experiences are the best way to build relationships with one another – a statement that I unreservedly agree with. The problem that arises with FOMO is the desire to outdo one another, to experience something solely for the fear of missing out on what someone else is doing and the opportunity to prove to the world: look at me, I’m doing something.
We often overlook the fact that while scrolling through our social media newsfeeds and viewing everyone’s pictures from their trip, concert, night out etc. we are (most likely) not viewing the everyday lives of the individual. Picture after picture, video after video, we are viewing a false representation of the daily lives of our peers. Yes, they’ve done something cool – but just because they posted it on social media doesn’t mean their lives are superior to yours.
We as a generation are scared of overlooking potential opportunities to have experiences and lead a fulfilling life, and to some extent, this “FOMO” prohibits us from doing just that – living life without the burden of trying to compete with others experiences. The feeling of “FOMO” causes us to miss out on both what we are doing, and what we’re not doing.
With all of that being said – we should chase life experiences, we should have bucket lists and we should find great pleasure in going places, and doing things – but the burning desire to pursue these experiences should not be to prove something to the world, or even ourselves. It should be out of curiosity, lust, and not just a fear of “missing out”.