#FOMO

Anyway. So, you wanted to talk about FOMO? What is that?

Oh, I haven’t ranted about FOMO yet? Fear of Missing Out? Ah. So FOMO is the new social plague. Sounds promising already, right? FOMO is a blanket term now, and it’s a shorthand for all the social anxieties caused by social media making us all think that our lives suck. Kind of.

FOMO Version A is a burning need to show up to everything. Every party, every gathering, every event that might end up being the epic night out people talk about for years afterwards. So, FOMO A is hyper-participation.

FOMO Version B is anxiety caused by thinking that everyone else is having more fun than you. All your buddies are out there living it up, and you’re stuck at home … not living it up, I guess. FOMO B gets a lot of press because Facebook and Twitter make is so much worse. When all you can see is a highlight reel of all your friends’ lives it’s easy to start feeling like you’re the only one not having any fun. There’s actually a fun side-effect of this that makes people check Facebook non-stop because looking at photos feels like participation. Anyway, this isn’t what I’m talking about now.

I picked up a raging case of chatroom FOMO last week. I found a little chatroom with about a dozen regulars and I’m having trouble not checking it. This is a whole notch above Facebook/Twitter obsession, which never actually affected me. I got pretty used to being the only person at the table without their smartphone out. Now, suddenly, I caught eFOMO.

…eFOMO?

FOMO A for a place on the Internet. It’s legitimately tough to keep away. I actually caught myself checking it instead of keeping up an in-person conversation. Addictive behaviour 101. I have zero tolerance for this. So, I spent some time thinking about it, and I have a neat little theory about why it’s so bad. Chatrooms are one: ephemeral and two: spontaneous.

First of all, it’s constantly slipping away from you. Every minute you’re not there is a minute of lost opportunity that can’t be found again and caught up with.

Second of all, there’s no schedule. It has a certain ebb and flow and if you’re not there all the time you’ll miss on the accidental magic of the internet. I’m doing something dramatic with my hands right there. It’s like playing slots. I constantly feel like we’re on the verge of something great happening and I just want to put in another coin and keep going. Then it’s 1am and FOMO is replaced by self-loathing, so I go to bed.

Third of all, it feels exclusive. Even if it’s a bigger chatroom it feels like a small personal slice of the internet. Pretty quickly you sprout a sense of ownership and community. It becomes a special little clubhouse.

To make it even worse, online chat is awesome. It’s awesome in that corny way that people thought the internet would revolutionalize everything. You get to hang out with all kinds of interesting people you wouldn’t otherwise know. You get to express yourself in a potentially new way. You get to participate in what’s basically a fun playground for people, where they feel comfortable being creative. it’s almost preying on my desire to be liked and respected by people I like and respect. Desire to fit in, even, which sounds dramatic but feels true enough. Besides, chat rooms mean different things to different people. In the right setting with the right crowd, everyone will find some desire fullfilled. To be heard, to be seen, to be understood, liked, whatever it might be.

Right. I get that. I think a lot of people have found the same thing with different online communities.

Definitely, and I have too, but it’s never been bad for me before. Now I’m trying to train myself to not be so obsessed with it. That’s a real thing I have to do try stay sane and productive. Brave new world, etc.

The first thing I try to remember is that at any given moment I’m missing out on thousands of amazing things. It’s a big world out there, and it has a lot to offer. There is no helping this, there’s no fighting this, and by now I’ve accepted this. Missing out on a chatroom is such an easily fixable problem though, that I always want to fix it. So, my job is to convince myself to allow it to be one of the things I’m missing out on.

The second thing is try to and remember that there were good reasons to be doing other things. Reading, listening to music, whatever. All those other activities are just as good, just as valid and just as important and fun for me to do. I shouldn’t let all my time just get annexed like that.

Anyway, I’m actually in the chatroom as I’m typing this. So, clearly I don’t have this figured out enough.

Hahah, okay. That’s fine. I get it.

“Fine” probably isn’t the right word.