Merry FOMO

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping on your nose,
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.

Ya, either that or you’re sitting in a cold place, with no fireplace and no choir, never mind people running around in silly costumes….

It’s that time of year again when even those of us who rarely suffer FOMO can get hit with a suprise attack. If you haven’t been invited to many (or any) Christmas cocktail parties or are looking forward to a somewhat lonely holiday season, it’s entirely possible FOMO has reared its ugly head to laugh at your misfortune. Or it could be the case that you’ve been partying non-stop but still feel FOMO breathing down your neck. We are not rational beings.

FOMO is the Fear of Missing Out.

It’s a monster born of envy and insecurity and the desire to be “where it’s at”.

Actually, it’s less about being there as it is about NOT being there. Not being where the action is means you’ve been rejected … or worse, simply overlooked and forgotten! Either way, you’re excluded.

The older we get, the greater the chances that we’ve “settled down” and, allegedly, part of settling down is is that FOMO retreats … regular attacks should wane. But Christmas is special. Christmas is when many otherwise contented people wonder why their lives are not like the ones we see on TV.

It’s that time of year when it’s not actually insane to shed a tear over a commercial for a discount supermarket.

The first time I really became aware of the power of FOMO was during my 20’s when I lived in Dublin.

There’s a movie in my mind — or more precisely, a scene with a soundtrack — which captures my own sense of life is elsewhere. The scene is the drive from Dublin city centre all the way to Howth, at night, along the coast road.

For those of you who don’t know the drive, most of it involves a very long flat road that follows the curve of a bay. On the drive out of town the water is on the right and on the left run terraced houses until you get closer to Howth when the houses begin to detach into larger, private affairs.

At night, sitting in the back of a taxi, the lamp-posts are like a very long string of faery lights that trace a path all the way out to that large rocky hill of a peninsula called Howth — which rises up like a mass of twinkling ornaments at the end of the line.

For a half-hour’s drive I’d stare at those lights as they trailed all the way to the promise of people out late and parties just waiting for my arrival.

When I was invited, that is. Sometimes I was and sometimes I wasn’t.

The music that accompanies this image in my head of the night drive to Howth is Bryan Ferry.

Roxy Music captures the quiet, almost abstract painfulness of FOMO — of a better life going on elsewhere. Without me. Roxy Music knew how to do insatiable.

And so even if I have left behind the angst of my 20’s in Dublin, certain moments catch me off guard. Especially at Christmastime. Just last weekend, after weeks of travelling, with more weeks upcoming and many consecutive nights of being out on the town (in London or New York and in 12 hours time, Dublin), I’d kept last Saturday and Sunday simple. I had almost no social plans. I  shopped and caught up with my sleep and my laundry. But I also walked down my street in the dark of evening and couldn’t help but peer into other people’s houses with a pang of “Why am I not at a party? Is it OK to be by myself when EVERYONE else is having fun and toasting the festivities?” Until finally, “Is my life just a sham?!”

The only consolation is that almost everyone feels this way at some point or another (or so I’ve been told).

And I suspect if I didn’t feel this way from time to time I wouldn’t be normal.

So to everyone out there who thinks everyone else is having a great time without them, Happy FOMO. I highly recommend you wallow in your grass-less-green with a toast to yourself and a little bit of Roxy music to mark the occasion.

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Filed under Events, Random idea, Social psychology

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