We face so many challenges as individuals. It seems that the more personal the challenge, the deeper within ourselves we must seek to overcome it.
We are told to do it this way. Encouragements like, “Look Within Yourself” “Find Yourself,” and “Be True to Yourself,” are everywhere.
Everywhere is this indispensable advice. Just ask yourself and you’ll find the answer.
It is meaningful to practice self-reflection and we feel very rich when we are able to solve our own problems. But it’s not that simple.
Individualism, resolve and self-empowerment do not address a deeper challenge, a pervasive fear that I see everywhere around me. It’s the fear that characterizes the course of modern life: the fear of missing out.
“What if” and “if only” are are an unassailable byproduct of our cultures and societies. No matter what we long for, where we wish to be, or with whom we wish to be, the fear of missing out reflects an absence of connection. Turning inward for that connection might bring calm, dispel anxiety and bring us peace of mind. But it doesn’t bring us any closer to what we fear we’re missing.
FOMO can be overwhelming or subtle. Overwhelming when we’re well aware of our distance from things. Subtle and unconscious when we know we’re suffering but aren’t sure exactly why. In both cases, we are experiencing a sense of detachment.
Maybe FOMO was born online (as many acronyms are) but it’s a pervasive and penetrating fear that spreads into real-time networks and affects real, human emotions.
Some argue that the virtual environment and our obsession with technology puts us farther apart from each other than ever. They are quick to point out that social media is the catalyst and that the more there is going on the harder it is to keep up. This argument is incomplete if only because there is no solid data that links our online habits with our happiness (assuming happiness is the opposite of fear).
More than that, FOMO has always existed offline and it’s time we got back to facing this challenge without blaming our devices and social media habits.
A fundamental part of being human is being social.
We must recognize the disconnect. If we’re depressed and lonely, we need to reach out. We can only look deep down for certain comforts and certain answers but we are still alone.
Whether it means reaching out on Facebook, picking up the phone, or meeting up with someone in person, it doesn’t matter how we connect, it matters that we do.
Human interaction is as vast as an ocean. We swim in language, are buoyed by conversation and stay afloat by sharing knowledge. While it’s not reasonable to meet every creature in the sea and be in the know about everything, it is possible to miss out by not interacting at all.
Overcoming any fear involves owning that fear. The ability to say, “so what?” when we aren’t invited or were the last to know is easier said than done, but it’s worth practicing.