Tuesday, March 18, 2014

FOMO (sort of)

Urban Dictionary:
FOMO: "Fear of missing out". The fear that if you miss a party or event you will miss out on something great
Ex. Even though he was exhausted, John's fomo got the best of him and he went to the party.

Fear of missing out or FOMO is a form of social anxiety — a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying event.[2] This is especially associated with modern technologies such as mobile phones and social networking services.

A study by Andrew Przybylski found that the condition was most common in those who had unsatisfied psychological needs such as wanting to be loved and respected.[3] The condition is also associated with social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn, which provide constant opportunity for comparison of one's status.[4]

Some thoughts by John M. Grohol (PSY. D) from his article on PsychCenral titled FOMO Addiction: The Fear of Missing Out

“Teens and adults text while driving, because the possibility of a social connection is more important than their own lives (and the lives of others). They interrupt one call to take another, even when they don’t know who’s on the other line (but to be honest, we’ve been doing this for years before caller ID). They check their Twitter stream while on a date, because something more interesting or entertaining just might be happening.

“It’s not ‘interruption,’ it’s connection. But wait a minute . . . it’s not really ‘connection’ either. It’s the potential for simply a different connection. It may be better, it may be worse — we just don’t know until we check.

“We are so connected with one another through our Twitter streams and Foursquare check-ins, through our Facebook and LinkedIn updates, that we can’t just be alone anymore. The fear of missing out (FOMO) — on something more fun, on a social date that might just happen on the spur of the moment — is so intense, even when we’ve decided”

The Huffington Post, too, had dozens of articles all devoted to this ‘fear of missing out’.

*        *        *

Ok, so now here am I. This ‘fear of missing out’ plagues me. It is, in part, what prevents me from writing (which has been non-existent for the past few months; don’t worry, I’m working on it). It also prevents me from doing anything else, too. Like spending quality time with my Wife, or the Chubbs, or my friends and family. It prevents me from devoting time to endeavors other than just passing time to get through another day.

But everything I found when Googling ‘fear of missing out’ had to do with missing out on social connections, primarily when concerned with social networking--with the glow of those electronic devices severing our physical interactions. When I started researching this hollowness I felt, this ‘fear of missing out’, that’s not what I expected. At all. It’s not what I was looking for.

My perception of FOMO (which before writing this I didn’t know was a diagnosable condition [still not sure I buy that either]) has nothing to do with technology, social networking, or missing out on parties or whatever. It has everything to do with missing out on things.

Let me explain.

I have the fear of missing out on, for lack of a better word, media. Missing out on books, on music, on movies, on TV shows, even on video games. Mostly it’s music and books, because that is where I have developed my passion. It is impossible for any one human to read all the books ever printed, for three reasons: 1) too many books have been lost or destroyed over the centuries; and 2) there just isn’t enough time to read through every book that is available in your own language; 3) let alone in all other language, translated or not. I know some may say not every book is worth reading. Maybe that’s true. Maybe not. I don’t know, but having not read very much (especially for an English major), I am truly unaware of what’s out there, what I’m missing, what I’ll never see and think.

The same goes for music, movies and TV shows. I know there are not enough hours in a lifetime to listen to every artist and watch every movie and every episode of every TV show; that gives me intense anxiety. Thankfully, unlike books, there are bands and movies and shows I have no desire to listen to or watch (a list too long to mention). Except, secretly, I do want to listen and watch, because they exist. I know I won’t like them, because I know my tastes and what I can handle when it comes to gore and sex and violence and vulgarity and genres. But the not knowing, that feeling of missing out . . . sometimes I have panic attacks because of it. And as a creator of content that will become part of this grand expanse of media, my stress and anxiety increase almost exponentially.

But this FOMO (that really is a lame acronym, let’s call it the Glumps from now on) is not exclusive to books and music and film and TV, it also erupts over talents. Of learning new skills. I don’t worry about missing out on ‘experiences’, I worry about not having time to learn all the things I want to learn, and do all the things I want to do. I know those sound the same, but they really are quite different. To illustrate, here’s an incomplete list of talents I want to develop, and goals:
·         Blacksmithing
·         Welding
·         Jewelry making (like faceting and such)
·         Glass blowing
·         Design and build a house
·         Paper making
·         Print making
·         Armory
·         Gardening
·         Woodworking (mostly lathe work)
·         Be a mechanic (I love seeing how things work)
·         Build a go-cart
·         Build an Ultra-light
·         Get my pilot’s license
·         Be a stunt driver
·         Become an Astrophysicist
·         I want to learn to play violin, cello, clarinet, bassoon . . .
·         Make a real movie

And the list goes on. A list of skills I want to develop that only affect me, and no one else. That only involve me, and no one else. That’s where the difference comes in, the Glumps I get involve only my personal maturation. I want to learn and know and do almost everything. I want to be almost everything.

I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. Not infected with the Glumps, but wanting to do all the things. When I was a child, I wanted to be cartoonist. For years, I told my parents that I was going to be one (thanks to Bill Watterson). Calvin and Hobbes was my childhood. Although I never actually read the comics while running in the newspaper, my brothers collectively owned all the anthologies of that brilliant strip, which I devoured. I copied image after image from those books in my little sketch book. I even got to the point where I started a mural on my bedroom wall (which is still there, still unfinished). But then, I got to high school, and I took a drafting class, because architecture always interested me. After that first class, I knew I was going to be an architect. For my entire high school career I wanted to be an architect. Or a chemist. Because I love(d) chemistry. And I was good at it. Aced AP Chemistry, got a 4 on the AP Exam, was accepted to BYU Provo as a Chemical Engineer. But that path changed. After a series of changes in my major, and a move back to California, I ended in Creative Writing (that is a story for another time, or one I’ve already told). I love writing, now. As a child and teenager, I hated it. Reading too. But now, it is a great passion of mine. Yet . . . there are all these little voices echoing between my ears, calling out: “What about me?” All the career paths, talents, trades, skills I could have learned, that I still want to learn, but that I haven’t, that I know I don’t have time for, that I will at some point have to put on the chopping block

You might think: well, that sounds tough, but at least you have something you are doing, and you can always work towards those other goals: read as much as you can, watch as many movies as you can, list to music all the time, just try to experiences as much as possible and hope for the best; have hope, have faith, it will all work out and you’ll be happy. Wonderful sentiments, but they are misguided, because they misread the problem.

See, the Glumps are debilitating. Overwhelmed knowing I can’t do everything, I end up doing nothing. I’ll sit on the computer scrolling through UberHumor or playing stupid mind-numbing internet games, when I want to be writing or reading or playing with the Chubbs. I want to hike and bike and just be outside, but knowing that I am this spec in the infinite cosmos of human life, this imperceptible period at the end of the shortest sentence no one has read, I just stare out the window and despair at my internal surroundings.

The deluge is a very self-deprecating experience. It’s self-destructive. It’s self-sabotaging. It’s a lot of big words that I don’t know, that I will never know. There is a lot of information I will never know. Knowledge I will never acquire. Trades I will never attempt, talents I’ll just never have, no matter how hard I do or don’t try.

And that’s life. Accepting the limitations of living. Of being human. Of dying. Of looking for the little in-betweens where someone stumbles onto your miniscule sentence, reads it, smiling, and you embrace, to know that each other are real, that you are more than the solitude inside your heads.

1 comment:

Steph said...

I appreciate when you post these thoughts and that it gives me the.chance to get to know you better. I liked how you said at the end, "that you are more than the solitude inside your heads." Because it reminds me of how I felt the other day - that I'm with my brain all the time! So it is refreshing to know that others think the same as you, or have the same feelings. And experience the same thoughts. I'm grateful that you recognize where you want to improve and I'm glad that we can work on these talents and goals together. I know that we can't guarantee we will learn them all... but I'm glad that you're the friend I can devote all my time to trying to make your life as awesome as possible!!