Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Everyone thinks FOMO, or "Fear of Missing Out," is a thing, especially on social media where everyone can make their lives look better than yours. All the stories I've read about FOMO have been framed like this: the author is sitting at home alone on a Friday night and happily eating Weight Watchers popcorn when all of a sudden she checks her Instagram, sees that a couple of her grad school classmates are out at a karaoke bar a few blocks away from her apartment and has a crisis of whether to text them, be hurt she wasn't invited or try unsuccessfully to enjoy the rest of her solitary evening.

Whenever anyone says they're having FOMO, they say it like they're having a hot flash or that they got a splinter in a rough spot and don't have a tweezer to get it out. FOMO is a shameful thing that people use to describe themselves when they're at their utmost level of loserdome.

Suspicious, then, that the Pew Research Center conducted a poll about people's behaviors on Facebook recently and found that FOMO is actually not really a thing. Only 5% of people said they "strongly disliked" that Facebook showed them things they weren't participating in, and 84% of people said they really didn't care at all. Could it really be that only 5% of us get bad FOMO when The Onion has declared it as a way of life?

I always loved Tina Fey's character, Liz Lemon, on 30 Rock. But my problem with her was that she complained about being lonely, ugly and schlubby when she really wasn't: she had a relatively high-status job, she was attractive and she wasn't schlubby - she was just infatuated with messy meat lover's pizzas. Pew Research Center made me think: Maybe we're all a little like Liz Lemon. We joke about being insecure, alone, single forever slobs who end up alone on weekend nights bingeing on the new season of House of Cards. But Liz Lemon went out with Matt Damon and Jon Hamm, and she was enough of a stimulating protagonist to last the show seven years. Liz Lemon wasn't just self-deprecating, she was lying to herself.

When it comes down to it, maybe the narrative of FOMO and self hatred is one that we created for ourselves. Maybe we love ourselves most when we're drinking tea alone on our porch and using expensive data plans to sift through Instagram fitspo hashtags. In an age of overstimulation and massive amounts of information, we might be thinking that we SHOULD want to be cooler than we are, when really deep inside our FOMO is nothing more than actually being interested in things. 

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