You know it has become “a thing” when it is known simply by its own acronym. Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is the fearful belief that others are out there (wherever you are not, presumably) shining more brightly and having way more fun than you are. Although not a new phenomenon (the term was coined in 1996 by marketing strategist Dr Dan Herman) it is exacerbated today by the constant connectivity of people, each of us with our smartphones offering a window onto the rest of the world’s carefully curated lives.
LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE
Bombarded by filtered images in which we only glimpse the highlights of other people’s ‘best lives’, the hum drum nature of our own regular day-to-day living suddenly seems markedly duller by comparison. It is all too easy to forget that the pictures we so enviously covet are often as fake as that Rolex you bought last time you went on holiday. Instead, what we are more likely to take away from hours spent scrolling through these images is that we just don’t measure up as we are right now. Click breast augmentation, lip fillers and liposuction before you go any further!
LIVING YOUR FASTEST LIFE
And while you’re having your skin peeled, your tummy tucked or your nose reshaped, you’d better make sure that the latest meme to sweep the online world hasn’t been and gone without you liking, sharing or putting your own super-witty slant on it. Whether that’s the positioning of Bernie Sanders in his cute mittens, the re-placed authority of Jackie Weaver or just a jaunty sea shanty or two isn’t important. What’s important is that you were riding the wave along with everyone else.
BACK IN THE OLD DAYS
Once upon a time, (“back when I was young”) if you missed who killed JR on a Saturday night, for example, you had to wait nine months for the BBC to run the repeats. No catch-up or sneak peaks or bingeing on entire boxsets ahead of schedule for us! That was real FOMO. The beauty of the internet is that things are there (somewhere) for absolutely ever. You don’t actually have to miss out on anything ever again, it may just take a bit of a deeper dive to find it, once another viral wave has rolled in to wash it back into the endless ocean of content.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE
And there’s the rub, as Shakespeare once said (more of him later). FOMO isn’t the fear of missing out, but the fear of being seen to be missing out. If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a writer taps out a story in Starbucks on his/her laptop and no one is there to see it, are they actually working? These days validation comes all too often from being seen to be rather than just being.
If it’s any consolation, this is something which lessens with age, as your focus broadens and you zoom out rather than in. Also, after a certain age, it’s just too exhausting to try and keep up!
One of the saddest things I heard last year was a relative complaining that his wife was worried her lockdown was not being as productive as those of her friends. My god, if you can’t take your foot off the gas during a global pandemic, when can you cut yourself some slack?
SLOW DOWN, ZOOM OUT
So this month it’s all about slowing down and widening your focus. After all, the really good stuff stands the test of time for everyone to enjoy whenever they get round to it. “OMG, I still haven’t read Dickens’ Great Expectations”….hey, that’s OK, it was written in 1861 and it’s still widely available so you haven’t missed out on anything yet. FOMO be gone!
With that in mind, here are three more recommendations of literary greats that have stood the test of time, which you can explore at your leisure. But of course, just make sure you take plenty of selfies while you’re at it!
- Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Little did he know when he penned this in the 1590s that this theme of warring families, the Montagues and Capulets in this particular instance, would be reinterpreted for centuries to come, finding its way into musicals and zombie love stories and cheesy seventies soaps.
See more reinterpretations below.
- In 1843 Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, which went on to become the very essence of the Christmas redemption story, reworked and re-set (a bit like Jackie Weaver) over and over and over again. Explore the original before December rolls round again…but hey, no pressure!
- Thirdly, treat yourself to the novel that spawned the YA genre and grab yourself a copy of SE Hinton’s 1967 classic The Outsiders. This was the book that made me want to become a teller of teen tales, long after I left my own teens behind. Weep with Ponyboy and Johnny, root for Dally, the bad boy, and then check out the film version with a cast of unknowns that nowadays would bankrupt any film company to get all together (Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, Ralph Machcio and C Thomas Howell as Ponyboy, wow!)