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FOMO: it’s a real thing

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

While we were in Tuscany, the group of us debated sharing photos on Instagram. I sometimes have a knee-jerk response (often emotional) to a type of oversharing that happens at events where I either know several people attending, or I really, really wanted to be there. And I didn’t want to cause that in other people.

Ultimately, I decided to share—as artfully as I could—the beauty of Tuscany, both because sharing carefully-curated photos over Instagram actually multiplies my enjoyment of my travels, and to celebrate the launch of our new travel site. (We unveiled the site the same week, quite on purpose.)

But I still felt a mildly guilty for Instagramming, because I really, truly, honestly didn’t want to come across as bragging. And I didn’t want to give people a dose of the very infection I’m often exposed to—what’s known as FOMO. Or, fear of missing out.

painting in Tuscany

picnic in tuscany

I don’t remember where or when I first heard of FOMO, but I knew immediately what was meant by the acronym. It’s the idea that somewhere, something better is happening than what’s in front of you, and you’re not there. In fact, google “What is FOMO?” and you’ll get: “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”

Catch that last bit? …Often caused by posts seen on social media. It’s usually the side-effect of seeing the event on social media—otherwise you’d probably not even know it was happening.

writing outside in Tuscany

I’ve learned to stay off Instagram whenever there’s a gathering I know would bum me out if I’m not there, but my FOMO’s gotten less potent over the years (especially as I boldly say no so I can say yes to the better thing). But the fact that there’s even such a thing as FOMO is telling about the effect social media has on our lives and on our culture.

Too much social media robs us of the joy of the here and now. It replaces a contentment of standing on your own grass, adding an overly-saturated green to other people’s lawns. It temps you to feel lonely, less than, and lethargic about your own day ahead.

Instagram notwithstanding, I stayed off social media when we traveled through Tuscany—and it was absolutely glorious. Afterwards, I vowed to post less on Facebook, and only when I had something to say, so as to not add to the noise. Social media became ridiculously loud (was it always that obnoxious?), so I’ve hardly turned to it these past few months. My life has become richer because of it.

bike in Tuscany

I’m grateful for social media; don’t get me wrong. Many of you probably found this post via Facebook, and I use all the main sites to keep up with people I love and to exchange fantastic ideas. But there’s a time and place for it, and I don’t want even a mild case of FOMO.

It all comes down to wielding social media as a tool for good, and to walk away when it tempts you away from that goodness. It might involve taking Facebook and Twitter off your phone, or to set up a restriction to Pinterest past a certain time of day. Or to simply leave your phone at home every now and then, and enjoy what’s right in front of you.

FOMO is real, but it’s only as infectious as we allow it into our lives. This past year it has loosened its grip on me—so much so that I think I’ll actually enjoy scrolling through Instagram the next time most of my friends are together and I’m elsewhere.

Fear of missing out… I’d rather fear missing the here and now.

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Comments

  1. “I’d rather fear missing the here and now.” Exactly. Yet I find FOMO creeping up for me as well. I curb it by doing my best not to be on social media while I’m out and about. And most weekends our whole family puts aside all electronic media from Friday when the kids go to bed until they go to bed on Saturday. It’s a wonderful reprieve and reminder of what’s important.

  2. That last sentence? Yes.

  3. avatar
    kelly libby says:

    Good morning!

    I enjoyed this post. One thing I have done regarding social media is to “unfriend” and “unfollow” people who bring me down when I see their posts.

    Also, I went through my “friends” list and make a real attempt to remove anybody who is not my friend in REAL life. I ask myself question about them: Would i want to spend real life time with this person? Is she/he a person I could call and depend upon in a time of trouble? Is this somebody I trust to be vulnerable with? Do we have a significant, worthwhile past with shared positive experiences?

    If I answered, “NO!”, then i removed them. Simple.

    I also removed myself from obnoxious and gossip feeds.

    This takes time but the time is well spent for me.

  4. We first encountered “FOMO” in Wired last year. And it has been so useful in understanding Little Man’s reactions to things and events. Yeah, friends are over and Little Man is fussing about having to go to bed and some asks what’s wrong, “Oh, its just FOMO — Fear Of Missing Out”. And we see it in ourselves all the time. Sometimes it can be useful to be able to name something.

  5. For the past few weeks I’ve had the horrible feeling of missing out on social media because I WANTED to be present. It seems so ridiculous that I would actually think that the lives of others going on inside my little square picture app would be better than the people I love.
    I think social media is wonderful. I have developed really good relationships through social media. I have seen my business grow greatly through social media. However, there is so much noise, too much noise, to many distractions. I don’t quite know the balance, but I do know that I have to shake the fear of missing out on social media so I don’t miss out on the most important people in my life.

    • I get that, too, as a business owner. Sometimes I just have to be content with ‘enough’ and trust that what I need to do will still be relevant the next time I get back on. As I say all the time, “No one ends the day and says, ‘Well, I finished Twitter.'” It never. ends.

  6. That last line!!! Yes, I am with you here. And it seems like the more I’m soaking up the present, the more the little windows into other people’s adventures seem like a gift and not a weight.

  7. Lovely pictures. It confirms that I should not give up on getting myself there one day. I love beauty so much, even if it only comes from a screen. It gives me a break from the ugliness that I can witness on my every day. It’s not escapism, or FOMO (while I know it’s a real thing, mostly happens to me when I see family gatherings back in Mexico that are happening without me) your pictures and posts are inspiring.

    And this is awesome:

    “Fear of missing out… I’d rather fear missing the here and now.”

  8. I loved seeing your photos on IG from your time in Tuscany. And then I followed the # to see more photos. It was beautiful and inspiring. But most of the time, I know the feeling of FOMO all too well.

    Placing boundaries helps immensely and being more afraid of missing the here and now, like you said. Thanks for this.

  9. I had never heard of FOMO before, but I am so so guilty of it. Sigh. I desperately need to go through a social media fast. I loved this post, Tsh.

  10. This post comes at a good time for me. This last weekend I left the my husband and son in re big city and I took my daughter camping in the mountains. We we were so far out in forest service land we had no service of any kind.,I did take pix to creat a book for us to enjoy later but I thoroughly enjoyed being present and not taking pix with FB captions in my head.

  11. I, on the other hand, see everyone living beautiful lives and doing amazing things, and I think, “Wow! What a great idea!” — and it inspires me to actually work toward my own dreams, as my friends seem to have done.

    So…keep on sharing those inspiring photos, y’all. =)

  12. I loved everything about this post – thank you for sharing it. As a side note, I stepped far away from blog reading and podcast listening during much of the 2013 – 2014 academic yr in order to minimize distraction from my coursework & research. Over the past few weeks, however, I have been catching up on the Simple Mom / Art of Simple podcasts and they have been the perfect accompaniment to my getting back into running. I have so very much enjoyed them. I also returned to The Art of Simple around the time that you were sharing photos from your time in Tuscany & launching The Art of Simple Travel, and I am so glad that I did! I have loved reading your reflections on that trip, and I so look forward to reading of your family’s travels this year. Blessings to you all.

  13. Wow, I never knew this feeling had a name! But I definitely recognize when reading Facebook or too many blogs makes me feel very dissatisfied, and bummed about my own mediocre life. Thanks for putting a name to it, and validating it’s effect.

  14. I loved every one of your photos from your trip. It’s not a place I’ll probably ever go so I loved seeing it through your eyes.

  15. Beautiful photos! I have FOMO bad, but I think very little of it has to do with social media. I think it’s just innate in me and I’ve always been this way. It’s why I joined everything when I started high school. It’s why I took an overload of classes my first years of college (I learned better by the last two.) And it’s why my schedule is often over-scheduled.

    I see it in my 12-year old son, too, and he is blissfully untouched by social media. If he gets a whiff of something, anything, happening in our community he has a severe case of “I want to do that!” no matter what it is (and even if he previously had a bad experience at a similar event). I would love to find better ways to address FOMO in both of us.

  16. It has loosened its grip on me lately too. And it feels so good.

  17. FOMO is a real thing! I have been pregnant ALL summer and let me tell you, every weekend I have FOMO when I am scrolling thru instagram and facebook! This post really hit home for me!

  18. That last sentence, YES. I am *slowly* pulling back so I can be present in MY life, not just witnessing everyone else’s. Thank you for posting this.

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