Just the beginning
holiday comparing the Instagram shots I’d posted of the villa I was renting with those of a friend who happened to be away at the same time. I am by no means alone in my late-blossoming FOMO.
But for the older generation, the non-digital native, and those of us over 35, FOMO is generally related to cultural events. You know: the new app everyone seems to have downloaded, but you’ve never heard of. The incredible new restaurant Twitter’s falling over itself to rave about – and you’re clueless. The high-profile feud, the controversial YouTube video clip, the podcast, the play, the holiday destination... This is what gives us FOMO, the sense that we’re lagging behind, that we’re out of the conversation.
The internet’s capacity to both provide a platform for, and spread the word on, new cultural properties means that keeping up to date is a 24-hour-a-day job. New ideas bubble up every few hours, and it’s often as if everyone except you has already been briefed.
FOMO also means we suffer from a new pressure that I characterise as “the tyranny of amazing”. In our efforts to be included in the debate, we try to take ownership of the latest TV show or pop song or play with hyperbole.
We end up having conversations such as the following: “Didn’t you think the new show at the Madinat was amazing?” “I thought it was brilliant!” “It was the most amazing thing I have ever, ever seen!”
A 40-year-old colleague recently told me he found himself suffering horribly through a performance of the much-praised musical The Book ofMormon when he was in London recently, “because I just didn’t think I was enjoying it as much as everyone else said they had. I mean, I thought it was pretty good but, honestly, how could anything ever be as amazing as everyone had told me that show was going to be?” Where will FOMO end? According to Susan, it won’t. If anything, it’ll get more intense. “Google Glass [spectacles through which we are constantly connected with the internet] and augmented reality [which annotates our view of the world with internet-generated information] will mean we are constantly connected,” she says.
“If FOMO has become worse lately, that’s because of smartphones and tablets. We are carrying small computers with us everywhere, so we’re more connected, more of the time. Soon it will seem uncool and strange not to have augmented reality. Soon we will be constantly connected.”
I ask Hannah and Jo if their fear of missing out will ever come to an end. “I think I’ll get to the point when FOMO stops, because I’ll be perfectly happy,” says Jo. “And I think that’ll happen when I’m 30. I used to think it would happen at 25 – but then I tuned 26.”
“I’m beginning to think, ‘I give up,’” concludes Hannah. “There’s no point in FOMO. Being perfectly happy is just unrealistic.”