I got married recently. It was a big life decision. One I made after long deliberation. I knew the responsibilities and foresaw the difficulties that accompanied a long-term relationship. I thought I was ready to face it.
However, one thing that I overlooked hit me hard. Relationship advisors. I failed to foresee and shut out the nuisance caused by the well-wishers and self-certified relationship experts. Once a conversation picks up about marriage, no matter whom I am talking to—a friend, a relative, the guy I met in the store—everyone starts giving relationship advice.
Recently these do-gooders went so far as to chart our honeymoon journey.
Disclaimer: One thing I discovered about myself, even as a child, is that I am not designed for traveling. I can’t sleep while I am inside anything moving. I get dehydrated and bloated for no apparent reason and end up with a splitting headache, if not a migraine. So I am reluctant to travel long distances.
However, the so-called do-gooders think I am making a huge mistake. They can’t digest the idea that this couple is not going on a honeymoon. They were oblivious to such an option until I told them so. Because if you don’t go around the world now, when will you? Magellan didn’t travel around the world in his fifties (Or did he?)
My humble mentions of the many nearby places we visited were shooed away like a stray dog from a butcher shop.
A deeper problem
First, I thought that this obsession is just a fad. Before and during the industrial revolution, people did not travel so frequently unless in search of a job. But now tourism is one of the most revenue-generating businesses in the world. However, the whole ‘We are going to visit Switzerland, like the Jones’ points to something deeply embedded in the human psyche.
Thinking more on this, I felt this fixation is not restricted to traveling alone. People are running behind every hedonistic pleasure there is. They fear that if they do not follow the crowd, they are missing out on something. Hence they live at the edge of their seats, ready to jump at anything new.
Psychologists have identified this as a form of anxiety called Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). Modern women and men are haunted by FOMO every moment of their lives. They spend so much money and take the pain to travel to Switzerland, not because they really want that, but because the Jones went there. If they don’t follow the suit, they feel they are doomed.
In the age of social media, the feeling is exacerbated. No matter how hard you chase experiences, there is some idiot in your friend list who posts a filtered selfie with a kissy face of her eating/doing/savoring something or traveling someplace.
More on FOMO
First identified in 1996 by marketing strategist Dr. Dan Herman, FOMO has many real-life implications. Studies prove that it impacts the way people invest, buy stuff, and even make life choices.
For a person with FOMO, our world, with its endless possibilities and choices, is akin to hell. She cannot enjoy anything because of the nagging feeling that she could do something better. This unquenchable thirst to continually connect with what people are doing wears on the person and makes life miserable.
Psychologists have found that people with higher levels of FOMO are more dissatisfied with life. In their studies, people with the fear of missing out exhibited high levels of stress, boredom, and low levels of life satisfaction and self-esteem.
Unfortunately, the FOMO phenomenon is common. We can find it in varying degrees in everyone, even within ourselves.
An escape route
How can we get away from the toxic effects of FOMO and lead a peaceful life? Here are some things you can do:
- Restrict the use of social media
Most of us are addicted to the dopamine pulse coursing through our brains with each swipe of the social media feed. The wonderland created with fake smiles, photoshopped landscapes, and over-ecstatic poses triggers FOMO. If you feel you cannot see behind the mask, it is better to restrict, if not avoid, social media.
- Be realistic about life
No one would be so belligerent as to oppose me when I say that life is not a walk in the park. We are living amidst a lot of pain. Though we want to cut loose and enjoy life to the fullest, we will not find it so easy. Life is not a joy ride. Obsessively pursuing happiness can only bring disappointment. Be realistic and enjoy the simple things life has to offer.
3. Live in the present
Mindfulness is a great way to counter FOMO. Savor each moment and enjoy its beauty. This can take away the dissatisfaction that comes with running behind experiences. When we realize happiness is here and now, our lives become simple.
4. Develop an attitude of gratitude
We often forget how privileged we are to live in our times. We are not haunted by hunger, threatened by wars nor hunted by deadly diseases (except COVID). Be grateful for the things you have and thankful for those you don’t. Changing your perception likewise can bring unexpected joy to life and help to exorcise the fear of missing out.
Thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you. Please post your opinions in the comment box.