Fear of Missing Out

The Millenials have a term, FOMO – Fear of Missing Out – that describes situations in which people do things, not because they definitely want to do them but because they are afraid that they might feel deprived later if they don’t do it. They correctly perceive that people often do things that are not really meaningful for them out of fear of later regret. They are especially concerned with not having important life milestones in their “memory cabinet” to look back on to say their life was all worthwhile, that they did not miss anything that mattered.

Clutter often results from FOMO. The person who clutters often believes that the piles may contain something marvelous that will make the pain of living with the piles worth it. That something is expected to transform the piles into a treasure trove, a source of hidden pleasures and mysteries. So they ignore or discount the daily distress of living with clutter (the difficulty of finding or using anything in the piles, the ugliness, the bad smells that emanate from piles of belongings, the emotional pain of lowered self esteem) and focus on the anticipated benefit of the items even when the benefit has no real date for when it might occur.

One of the most fundamental realities of life is that for every choice we make, we must sacrifice another option. Decide to have kids – then you must give up freedom, independence, and lack of worry. Pick an entertainment activity and other potential fun activities have to be skipped for that time period. Choose a career path – then eighteen other possibilities evaporate. Think it is time to retire – then you trade stimulation, activity, and a sense of purpose for freedom, less stress and fewer burdens.

The point is, there are losses and gains with every choice. The best defense against FOMO is to realize that every choice means accepting certain losses. Being clear about our reasons for making the choices we do and being adult enough to take responsibility for our decisions and actions if the choice does not turn out as we hoped helps, as does remaining cheerful no matter what happens.

And finally, a profane but insightful take on the subject of FOMO: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/fomo

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© Gloria Valoris, 2015

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